Review: ‘The Dresden Files: Welcome to the Jungle’ by Jim Butcher and Adrian Syaf
The Dresden Files: Welcome to the Jungle
Written by Jim Butcher; Pencils by Adrian Syaf
Del Rey, October 2008, $19.95
Jim Butcher’s [[[Dresden Files]]] series is something of an anomaly in the world of contemporary fantasy – a hugely successful, bestselling series of novels set in the modern world, featuring vampires, werewolves, elves, and other beasties that go bump in the night…but also featuring a main character who isn’t an attractive young woman embroiled in love and/or sex entanglements with two or more of those aforementioned beasties.
Butcher’s hero is Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only consulting wizard – and Harry’s literary background is more from the hardboiled mystery (Always Having Bad Luck With Dames Division, rather than the racier Always Falling Into Bed With Dames Division) than from the romance novel, like so many of his high-heeled and back-tattooed fellow explorers of the supernatural. Harry’s the hard-luck kind of mystery hero: he saves the day, but doesn’t usually get the girl, or much in the way of monetary reward, either. (But that’s OK, since his heart is pure – or as pure as anyone’s heart can be, these days.)
Dresden gets called in – usually by Chicago PD’s Lt. Karrin Murphy, head of Special Investigations (which gets all of the woo-woo cases) – when something seems to be “weird.” No one but Harry actually really believes in the supernatural, of course, but he does get results, most of the time.
Welcome to the Jungle is a prequel to the Dresden Files novels, taking place just before the events of [[[Storm Front]]], the first novel. It’s written by Jim Butcher himself, and penciled by “rising talent” (which here means “someone I haven’t heard of – not that there’s anything wrong with that”) Ardian Syaf, an Indonesian artist.
The Dresden Files is like [[[The X-Files]]] (and many other series of stories about supernatural beasties, like Hellboy) in that there are “mythos” stories – ones that move forward the larger plot – and stories that are one-offs. [[[Jungle]]] is a one-off, concerning some unpleasant doings at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo.
Murphy activates Dresden’s standard consulting contract when a guard at the zoo is brutally murdered – his throat ripped out by the fingers of something the guard emptied his revolver into without spilling a drop of blood. The police’s theory is that it was a gorilla, but Dresden is sure otherwise: this is something nasty, working on something nastier.
Dresden enlists the help of Willamena “Will” Rogers, the assistant to the head of the zoo, and starts investigating, both by talking to people around the zoo and by following the magical end of things. Quite soon, he figures out what is happening, and what kind of supernatural creature was responsible for the guard’s death.
And, of course, that just means that it’s time for him to track down and stop that creature, which is much harder than it sounds….
[[[Welcome to the Jungle]]] captures the tone of the Dresden books well – as you’d expect it would, being written by the same author and everything – and Syaf adds a stylish touch, though his art isn’t particularly distinctive to my eye. (He does a good mainstream superhero style, though, and can even draw different people who are actually wearing clothes – that’s pretty distinctive, I guess.) This is obviously primarily aimed at the existing fans of the series, but I could see [[[Hellboy]]] readers getting behind it as well. Harry Dresden is a hero in the classic mold, who kicks ass and takes names, and that’ll always be in fashion.
Andrew Wheeler has been a publishing professional for nearly twenty years, with a long stint as a Senior Editor at the Science Fiction Book Club and a current position at John Wiley & Sons. He’s been reading comics for longer than he cares to mention, and maintains a personal, mostly book-oriented blog at antickmusings.blogspot.com.
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