Jim Butcher and Ardian Syaf’s Welcome to the Jungle

cover, Welcome to the JungleWelcome to the Jungle marks Jim Butcher‘s first foray into a genre near and dear to his heart: comics. This volume collects four individual issues comprising a standalone storyline in the world of Harry Dresden, prefaced by an introduction from Butcher himself. The events of Welcome to the Jungle take place before those of the first Dresden Files’ novel, Storm Front, and introduce Dresden, his cat Mister, Bob the Skull and two of Chicago’s finest, Karrin Murphy and Ron Carmichael (all characters that should be familiar to fans of the novels).

The plot for Welcome to the Jungle is similar in feel to those of the novels, it’s just wrapped up in a much more condensed time frame and fewer pages. There’s been a death at the zoo that appears on the surface to be a cut and dried case of a gorilla gone mad. But there’s just enough off about the scene that Lt. Murphy, of the Special Investigations branch, feels a need to call in wizard-for-hire Dresden. Harry has twenty-four hours to prove the gorilla didn’t do it, and to find out who — or what — did. Which Harry does, demonstrating his ability for both witty banter and magic in the process of proving the gorilla innocent, keeping a winsome zoo assistant alive and showing the magical villains who’s who. Not that it’s really that easy — it never is for Harry — but he gets the job done.

Butcher’s usual snappy dialogue translates quite well into the comic format. Ardian Syaf‘s art is clean and attractive and he does an excellent job of realizing Butcher’s characters, Harry in particular, right down to his trademark duster, pentacle pendant, blasting rod and staff. The page layouts are also well done, veering from the traditional four-panel format with full-page images, panels on top of panels, and panels at an angle (which particularly lend themselves to action scenes), working with the narrative flow, rather than boxing it in.

Closing out collection book is an art section, including the four regular covers (by Syaf), the four alternate covers (painted by Chris McGrath) and a set of concept artwork pieces that serve as further introduction to Harry, Murphy and Carmichael — not to mention an assortment of villainous types.

Welcome to the Jungle works admirably as both an introduction to the series for new readers — who can jump right into the novels from here – and as a treat for existing fans. Fans of The Dresden Files series and Welcome to the Jungle will be glad to know that Storm Front will also receive the comic treatment, starting in November 2008.

(Del Ray, 2008; original single issues published by Dabel Brothers, 2008)

Aptil Gutierrez

Since last we met our intrepid book reviewer, April Gutierrez, she's moved halfway around the world to the land of the rising sun. Home is now Fukuoka, the largest city on Japan's west-most main island, Kyushu. The Japanese boast of their homeland's four seasons, but April recognizes just two: Granrodeo tour season and ... the rest of the year. During the former, she's running around Japan from Hokkaido to Okinawa, mixing sightseeing with awesome rock concerts. The rest of the time, she's busy exploring shrines and temples closer to home and regretting she has but one stomach to offer up to Japanese cuisine.

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