In Review: Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files: Wild Card #3

This series shows that novels can be successfully expanded by comic books.

The cover: I think this is a first for a Dresden comic book: no Harry Dresden on the cover. That’s fine, because the wizard isn’t in much of this issue, given his tete-a-tete with Lara Raith last issue. This month’s installment focuses on human Karrin Murphy, who’s being chased by the psychopathic supernatural entity that’s been the cause of all the murder and mayhem for this series. Karrin’s got her back to a alley’s wall with her pistol out, held by both fists. Something is generating a breeze, as papers are flying about her and her jacket splays open to show that she’s torn her jeans in conflict with the creature. Speaking of which, the shadow of the homicidal clown, the “Wild Card” of this series, is on the wall behind her, partially eclipsing part of the detective’s face. Great image that shows one of the book’s heroes and teases the villain of the piece. Carlos Gomez has created another slick cover and Mohan has made it vivid with the colors. Cool to see the focus off Harry for once on the covers. Overall grade: A+

The story: This comic goes into territory that the novels have touched on just a little: Murphy’s childhood and her father.  The young girl has gone into the basement to see what her father does down there. She slips on a step, tumbling down the last four. “The voice washes over me like a warm breeze. Strength and comfort and love personified in a single spoken word,” she recalls as she hears from upstairs, “Karrin – ?!” He picks her up, glad to find she’s broken nothing, and she confesses why she’s come down. He’s created a workshop where he builds weapons and modifies others. He tells her, “There are people in the world who don’t play by the rules, people who think the rest of us only exist to amuse us.” He goes on to say that police have to stand up to such people so that other’s don’t. He takes his daughter upstairs before her mother finds out what mischief she’s gotten up to and the visual focuses on Karrin being carried lovingly by her father. Her look of contentment slowly changes to fear as the images age her to the present as she thinks, “My father is long gone. And the present…is a darker, more dangerous place.” She slowly stands, holding her head, lucky to have suffered no concussion from the fall from her motorcycle. High above her, a figure leaps between the buildings, laughing and taunting the detective sergeant. She realizes she has to get to an isolated area so no one is caught in their fight. She lifts her cycle, starts the engine, and peels off. The creature hits the pavement and proclaims to himself, “Can you believe this broad? Karrin Murphy — Where have you been all my life?” Jim Butcher and Mark Powers have started this book out with a great bit of characterization for Karrin, which relates strongly to the situation she finds herself in, and then the action kicks in. This is how a comic book should start! A quick flashback kicks in showing how the maniac started pursuing her and once that tale is told, the scene moves to Thomas and Harry making their way back to the city, until a real problem appears. Back in the city, “Gentleman” Johnny Marcone sees that one of his operatives has been killed, but he makes a wrong conclusion about the man’s death that will plunge the city into war. The final nine pages focus on Karrin versus the killer, and she knows there’s no way to stop this creature, but she gives it her all. Again, Butcher and Powers have another flashback to her with her father, who justifies why she does what she does. The action is great. The conclusion is a terrific cliffhanger. All I can think is, Harry is going to be really mad. Overall grade: A+

The art: The work of Carlos Gomez and inker Anthony Fowler, Jr. is outstanding. The book opens like a movie, as a shadow appears looking down a stairwell. Rather than illustrate the panels vertically, they’re horizontal, creating a sense of vertigo that proceeds the fall. When Karrin lifts her head to her father in the final panel on the page it’s the look of an absolute innocent. The hug she gives her father on the second page is a warm as the sun, which makes the conversation they later have all the more serious. The aging of Karrin on Page 3 is great; again, very cinematic. When Karrin is shown in the present, Gomez and Fowler have a fully rendered background to show the reader where the protagonist is, and her stance shows the reader she’s suffered an injury that hasn’t (yet) been witnessed. The third panel on the page emphasizes how extreme her fall was with the skid marks from the cycle being the largest image. The arrival of the antagonist on 5 is great — it’s powerful, it shows him to be insane, and his exaggerated features show that he’s not human. The flashback sequence with how the two characters first met could be perfectly understood without the text. Don’t get me wrong, the dialogue and narration definitely adds to the experience, but if one simply looks at the art, it communicates the action well. The first two panels that top 11 is a neat way for the artists to create a conversation that occurs in one location, but split the focus on each speaker. Page 18 has got a huge action panel that really shows Murphy doing the best she can against the creature, but, sadly, if a reader has been following this series, it’s reaction to her attack will be T-1000-ish. I was floored by what occurs on 19; it’s a great way for the artists to show their craft and is a great way to throw Karrin’s focus, though her reaction on 20 is outstanding. It’s always terrific to see artists able to convey such vivid action in a comic book. There aren’t super hero battles in this book: it’s one human trying to stop a supernatural entity. It’s a definite “Wow!” Overall grade: A+

The colors: Mohan is killing it on this book. The dark colors of the opening page create a sensationally dark tone, which is completely dashed when blues are used in little Karrin’s pajamas and her beautiful dark blue eyes. Her shock of yellow hair makes her a focus to the reader in every panel, reminding him or her that the focus is on how she interprets what her father is saying. In the present, her hair allows her to remain the focus on the dark, barely lit streets. I like how though the sky should be dark as pitch, Mohan keeps the night a dark blue, justifying why the characters and the settings can be clearly seen. The flashback has got a great sepia tint, instantly telling the reader that the actions that will be seen are set in the past. In this sequence sounds are magnificent in blue and lights on vehicles are red, giving a strong punch to the action. When some police cars appear, their lights are beautiful (Who’d of thunk?) in blaring blues and reds. Mohan should never leave this series. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Narration, dialogue, laughter, sounds, yells, and the tease for next issue are created by Bill Tortolini. I always like when the narration is a different font from the dialogue, and Tortolini does so. The sounds are great in this issue, given that are so many given the pursuit of Karrin. I’m an old comic book fan, so it’s impossible not to love the Punisher-esque BUDDA BUDDA BUDDA that appears on 18. Overall grade: A+

The final line: This series shows that novels can be successfully expanded by comic books. A fun read, with terrific action and outstanding characters. Highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A+

To order any issues of Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files: Wild Card or other books featuring the exploits of Harry Dresden go to

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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