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Storm Front (Dresden Files) Graphic Novel Review

Posted on June 30, 2010 by Flames


Available at Amazon.com

Adapting a beloved book series into another format is brimming with challenges. What goes into your head is rarely what you see and/or hear in the adaptation. Even a movie winning the Oscar is decried by patrons of the source material. The Dresden Files is no different. In spite of the pitfalls, Jim Butcher has not shrunk from putting his work in as many different formats as possible. The Dresden Files received the TV treatment. This was met with condemnation from many fans, but I must admit that though I didn’t enjoy the show, it was what first made me notice Butcher’s work. A new roleplaying game is out, something that fans of Jim Butcher know he would certainly have taken particular joy in seeing. And a limited series of comics entitled Welcome to the Jungle has been out and received positive reviews from this site and others. But Welcome was an original story. Storm Front is a true adaption of the first Dresden Files novel.

I am coming to this review having already read the source material. In fact, it was the source material that made me question how the creative team was going to avoid a “mature” label. I wondered if I could show my 9 year old son the artwork depicting what his parents read. For purists, I’ll let you know that the creative team didn’t worry about the label. For parents, I’ll let you know that I won’t let my 9 year old anywhere near this Graphic Novel!

The adaptation’s storyline holds very true to the novel, the first volume beginning at the, uhm, beginning and stopping when Harry is able to defeat a demon that has infiltrated his house. It sets up all the problems of Harry’s world (the Doom of Damocles, his love life, the vampires and mafia threatening his life, the 3rd eye drug, etc.). I must admit I have the advantage of reading the novel first, and so if it had any holes, I was able to fill in any details not mentioned in the adaptation.

The story seemed to flow nicely without any of the annoying “info-dumps” found in captions, Mark Powers using those exclusively to show Harry’s inner thoughts. Many of the captions were taken directly from the novel (I remembered some of his witty thoughts and they were included in the adaptation). In some adaptations, pulling captions from the text can lead to discombobulated storytelling, but Powers handled it deftly making certain the story flowed nicely.

The artwork of the main story was excellent, but certainly not for the faint of heart. The novel had a graphic crime scene. This was illustrated in all its gory details without using some of the medium’s cheats such as well-placed smoke, shadows and such. The aftermath of violence was extremely graphic and one of the things I immediately looked to see how they’d decided to go with the artwork. Though the novel does have some nudity (a naked Harry in the final, climactic battle with the demon frog), the adaptation refrains from showing any male or female nudity, choosing the aforementioned smoke and shadows routine for covers. The artwork was literal. Butcher describes a vampire de-cloaked as a bat-like demon. That is what is illustrated. The ending demon Harry faces is described similar to a man-sized frog. Again, that is what is drawn. This is, in some cases, a complaint I hold as the frog demon fails to illicit anything more than a chuckle. It just looks silly, especially when wearing a trench coat. But that is what was described so the artist was pulling from the source material.

For the graphic novel, they offered a short story with a peek into how Murphy and Dresden met. The story is acceptable, a troll protecting a bridge that Harry must get a girl across to his (then) mentor in investigations. The artwork for this, however, dropped in skill level dramatically, being a lot “stiffer”, more akin to amateur comics than what is normally put out by Dabel Brothers publishing.

Review by Warren Fitzpatrick

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