In Review: Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files: Wild Card #2

Action, mystery, and magic at its finest. Highest possible recommendation.

The cover: Harry Dresden is not looking good. He’s on this knees, obviously winded or beaten. His staff is still in his hand, and its runes are glowing, so that means he’s powering it up for a spell, and he’s going to need it. Behind him is Lara Raith, the head of the White Council of Vampires. She’s looks as if she’s walked off a runway, though she has two evil blades in her hands. Smiling, she looks down upon her prey who’s caused her countless difficulties over time. Now she can end things. Fantastic cover from Carlos Gomez, the interior artist, and Mohan, the interior colorist. Terrific introduction for Lara, who’s a constant frenemy in the books. Overall grade: A

The story: Thomas and Harry were on their way to visit Lara Raith last issue, but a giant owl has attacked their vehicle. Harry’s lost his pistol and staff, and the giant bird has grabbed onto him and lifted him out of the Jaguar. Thomas has grabbed a hold of Harry’s dangling leg and is engaged in a deadly game of tug-of-war while trying to steer his car on the mountain road. Losing his grip, Thomas has only one way to save his brother: he hits the brakes. The car, the owl, and Harry go tumbling. The bird turns its ire on Thomas, while Harry gets his staff from the back seat of the vehicle. The Wizard of Chicago does something and the story moves to the city’s south side where Detective Sergeant Karrin Murphy is investigating the death of an officer. It’s bad enough that the man was killed, but his clothes and squad car were also stolen. The next eleven pages introduce Lara and have Harry talking with her. This is no normal conversation as she has no desire to speak with the wizard, until he gives her the best reason why. What follows, from writers Jim Butcher and Mark Powers, is one of the most riveting scenes ever shown with Harry in a comic book and equal in tension to what’s happened to him in his book adventures. This pair has come up with the perfect reason for Lara to allow Harry to speak and it’s a monstrous one; my comments were the same as Thomas’s. Pages 18 and 19 are also fantastic justifications as to why she’s interested in what the wizard has to say, with her conclusion as whom she thinks is responsible could turn Chicago into a bloodbath. Harry’s definitely fighting the clock to solve this series of murders in the city, otherwise the streets will run very red. Overall grade: A+

The art: Carlos Gomez is an outstanding artist. The opening page is a terrific splash of the owl holding Harry, Thomas holding Harry, and him trying to steer his car down a forest road. Motion is in every aspect of this page: the owl’s wings and where it’s looking, leaves being kicked up, Harry’s jacket being swept back, and the car with its streaking lights and smoking tires peeling past the reader. This is the textbook definition of an exciting visual opening. This sense of motion continues on the next six pages as the car goes off the road and the giant bird trying to take out Thomas: Page 3 has a great point of view looking down from above the owl and 7 has a great dumping of goo that will evoke memories of the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man. Harry’s later scenes take place in a ritzy mirrored training room with several tall windows. The setting screams of wealth, reinforcing the power that Lara wields: Page 13 contains several cool panels as the characters face off against one another. Through their conversation, Lara looks completely in charge due to her smiles and her posture, with her stance at the top of 15 outstanding. My favorite panel during this scene is the fourth on 17: this is an excellent reminder to the reader of the characters’ height, with Harry having almost a foot over her, but this only makes the vampire seem that much stronger. The final two pages return to the threat that’s causing chaos in the city. The fourth panel on the final page evokes classic thrillers of noir films, rooting this series in classic detective fiction, though the killer spins it into fantasy. I just love looking at Gomez’s work. Overall grade: A+

The colors: I so appreciate colorists that are able to have a scene set at night and make it seem dark without completely blacking out the artist’s work. Mohan is more than competent at doing this and much more. Look at the the fantastic cool blues on the opening action sequence: it’s obviously night, but everything can be seen. There’s even a glow around the car’s headlights, just as there should be. Harry and Thomas are colored brightly to have them stand out in the darkness, but the owl naturally blends in, slightly, with the forest setting, though its eyes and beak are bright reminders of its threat. The sounds are also great because their colors are bright which makes them powerful. Lara’s training room is the complete opposite of the opening sequence, as the space’s walls are golden and sunlight streams in. The effects that Mohan does with the light streaking in are beautiful. That sums up Mohan’s contributions perfectly: beautiful. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Dialogue, narration, sounds, groans, scene settings, police tape, signage, and the tease for next issue all come to be thanks to Bill Tortolini. He does a great job inserting dialogue without stepping on important imagery, and there’s an awful lot to put in a panel, such as in the second panel on the final page. The sounds are excellent matches for the actions in the art, and I’ve got to give big kudos to a letterer that employs a different font for narration. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Action, mystery, and magic at its finest. Highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A+

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” and he’s reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.

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