BRIEF SYNOPSIS: PI/Wizard Harry Dresden tries to solve a double murder and missing person case.
PROS: Interesting premise; Harry’s a likable character; nice illustrations.
CONS: The story felt too rushed, usually at the expense of world-building and characterization.
BOTTOM LINE: My interest is piqued; I want to see what happens next.
Jim Butcher’s urban fantasy series, The Dresden Files, is one of many series that I never got around to reading. (Thankfully, for your review-reading pleasure, JP did.) Finding time was always the issue before, but with the recent publication of the (short by comparison) graphic novel Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files: Storm Front, Vol. 1: The Gathering Storm, that was no longer an excuse. The graphic novel, adapted by Mark Powers and illustrated by Ardian Syad, compiles the four issues of the Dabel Brothers 2008-2009 comics into a single hardback volume. Even better: it also includes a new prequel short story (“Restoration of Faith”) newly illustrated for this volume.
The story introduces Harry Dresden, investigator-for-hire in modern day Chicago, who also happens to be a practicing wizard. The police frequently call on Harry when a crime reeks of the arcane, like the grisly double murder introduced here. The crime itself is odd enough but it’s made doubly intriguing in that one of the victims is a mobster’s right-hand man and the other victim is a call girl whose madam is a vampire. What’s even more odd (to Harry at least) is that the magic used to commit the crime required huge amounts of energy, something heretofore unlikely — though not so unlikely that Harry is not suspected perpetrating the crime by Morgan, a grudge-holding representative of the White Council, which oversees all wizards. Not to be put off by double murders and accusations, Harry also takes another (but so far unrelated) case of a missing husband.
Being a graphic novel, one would naturally expect the story to move more quickly than a novel. But I was somewhat put off by how much more quickly it progressed. The story felt rushed in places, like there was too much novel to squeeze into the length they wanted it to be. In one scene, for example, Harry passes out without any explanation whatsoever and awakens with absolutely no curiosity as to why it happened. I understand that the graphic novel is a more concise format for storytelling than a novel is, but it still felt like there were some missed opportunities for world building and characterizations. Also noted here is that Harry, for all the magic abilities that he is rumored to possess, doesn’t use them in any significant way until the final chapter in this volume. Maybe there’s more to come later.
Does any of this hurt the graphic novel? Some, though not to any huge degree. Published as is, The Gathering Storm is enjoyable enough. The mystery is interesting, though obviously not solved in Part 1, and the illustrations are good. Despite the too-fast pacing, I’m quite interested to see how Harry solves the case.