Novelist Jim Butcher has realized a childhood dream and has brought one of his well-loved characters into the graphic novel genre. “Welcome to the Jungle” is the first of what hopes to be a long-running series in this animated form. Butcher has always envisioned Harry Dresden (the only private detective who deals in the paranormal) as a comic-book character. And he effortlessly transcribes Dresden and his band from a purely written to pictorial/narrative form.
The witty banter is there, too. Dresden and the other characters are known for their snide remarks, intelligence and deep, thought-provoking ideas (sometimes all at once in the middle of battle). However, it is the artwork of Ardian Syaf and his team that help realize what readers of the original series have been imagining all along.
As Lieutenant Murphy gets an assessment of the crime scene from Sergeant Carmichael, the pace is quicker than a regular book when we get to view the looks on their faces. We see Murphy’s glacial stare and Carmichael’s mundane sarcasm just as the reader would picture it. But the best of all is seeing Harry Dresden fully realized.
The comic-book format is perfect for a character like Dresden. The novel comes further to life as the audience finally gets to see the long leather coat that he wears year-round. There’s also his staff and other magical implements that are being constantly referred to in the books. But what is most impressive is when we get to see Harry at work – he is a wizard, after all, and that means that he does a considerable amount of magic to solve his cases.
In the beginning of the novel, he’s finishing up an assignment. Here he’s battling a particularly nasty, bestial-looking thing. It’s huge and ugly, and fits in perfectly in Dresden’s world. Here is where Butcher gives us the comedic, informative narrative while Syaf and company offer visuals that are familiar to avid readers of the novels.
It’s also the sort of artwork that is not your usual magic spell come to life. In one, when Bob the Skull and Dresden are conferring about his current case, we see that the symbols actually mean something. The same goes for the spells that get cast throughout the story. Butcher and Syaf show their knowledge and how detail-oriented they are. These scenes could have easily turned into something unbelievable; instead, what this collaborating team does so successfully is make the impossible real.
Butcher has a knack for blending the supernatural into the “real” world. He makes Chicago a backdrop for a place that needs a wizard-detective. Dresden chases (and is chased by) the supernatural, the Chicago police department hates working with him and even Murphy, who in the novels is more friend than foe, doesn’t want to call on him. When you call on Dresden, it means that the Boogeyman has escaped your dreams and has manifested itself in the middle of your nice, quiet neighborhood. He deals with the things that people can’t face. And we see in flashbacks why he is equipped to handle them.
Butcher’s novels have more than enough material to draw from to keep a graphic-novel series running. In this first installment, the reader is only introduced to a tiny speck of the Dresden universe. There’s the vampire half brother, a mythical dog, not to mention the gangsters that run the town and the Council that is alluded to throughout the story. For those who have read the books, do not fear – “Welcome to the Jungle” has an original plot, so those following the series can enjoy new stories about this enigmatic character.