In Review: Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files: Wild Card #4

Perfect reading for fans of Dresden or first time readers.

The cover: The title character “Wild Card” commands this month’s cover from Carlos Gomez and Mohan. This is the second cover in this series’ history where Harry Dresden doesn’t appear on the cover and it’s fitting, since this monster is causing the forces of Chicago to battle one another. It’s revealed in this issue that the character’s name is Puck and that couldn’t be more appropriate for the Shakespearean character that represents a mischievous sprite. Though this character is homicidal. His mohawk, bulging left eye, toothy grin, multiple piercings on his oversized right ear, and bondage top mark him as a dangerous character and this cover solidifies him in the reader’s mind as the bad guy. Great coloring on this, too, with the green adding to his inhuman nature. Overall grade: A

The story: The White Court, under the direction of Lara Raith, is striking back at “Gentleman” Johnny Marcone’s forces, believing the gangster to be responsible for making the deaths of two young women look like they were killed by vampires. Adding to the city’s troubles is one of Marcone’s men killed by someone who appeared to be a CPD patrolman, so the gangster’s forces are killing cops en masse. And the police are going after the White Court, who they believe are responsible for an assault on Detective Karrin Murphy. Harry narrates, ‘Whoever’s responsible for setting these factions each other must be mighty proud of themselves right now.’ The shape changing creature from the Nevernever, Puck,  is seen returning to his original form after assisting the officers to take down some of the vampires. A huge smile is on his face. Where’s Harry? He’s at the hospital with faithful oversized pooch Mouse, waiting to hear on Karrin’s condition. Waldo Butters, a friend to both character arrives, asking how the detective is, and after a brief exchange, both men are allowed in to intensive care to see her. This is Harry’s nightmare come to life: someone he cares for almost dying. He vows to find who’s responsible and Butters finds a clue that the officers and medical personnel missed, just as an unexpected person enters the room. Writers Jim Butcher and Mark Powers ratchet up the tension considerably in this issue, and not all of it is physical. The person who enters the hospital room brings considerable menace. The exiting words from that individual on Page 8 promise so much destruction. This is followed up with a change in location and characters that ends with just as much foreboding on 12: those whispered words that end the page are fantastic! Harry seeks help to his mounting problems from a surprising source, which takes a startling turn on the final three pages, because that’s not supposed to happen in a Dresden story, comic or novel. That’s one of the many joys of this comic book tale — it does things in this format that one would expect from a novel and that’s why this is so darn good! Overall grade: A+

The art: A pair of artists created this issue, Carlos Gomez and Sean Izaakse. The issue begins with a distant shot of some of the violence that’s breaking out across the city. It narrows in on two individuals in the second panel, and then moves to an adjacent location to show the trio that’s responsible for the violence. Even without the text, the reader would be able to comprehend that those three women started that blaze. The second page is also so well illustrated that the text is unnecessary (Though I love to “hear” Dresden’s speak, so skipping the text would be the loss of so much flavor to this tale). The second panel conveys a great sense of action, while the third shows an entirely different kind of action, with the positioning of the characters bodies making it look really cool. The angle of the opening panel on 3 dynamically pulls the reader to the center of the panel, having the reader accompany a character into the new location. The change that Puck undergoes at the bottom of 3 looks cinematic. The setting on 4 is completely different from the previous three pages: the sterile waiting room in a hospital and it changes the tone of the book instantly, employing more ordinary perspectives and a calmer content. The characters’ close ups in panels four and five on 8 nicely shows the emotions each character feels for the other. The change of setting on 10 is dramatic, with its interiors matching the epic scale of its exteriors. The reveal on 11 is fantastic, with that character’s posture saying so much to the reader. The flashback sequence on 14 and 15 is great, with the last panel on the former and the first panel on the latter fantastic: the spiraling leaves are an excellent way to have the ordinary do something extraordinary. The double-page splash of 20 and 21 is jaw-dropping. The final panel of this book leaves the hero in the ultimate cliffhanger, finally face-to-face with the villain. This book is simply a joy to look upon. Overall grade: A+

The colors: The coloring on this book really puts the reader on an emotional journey. The first two pages contain actions that are fiery oranges and yellows that show violent actions. Both pages are countered by the calm narration of Harry Dresden in dialogue balloons that are baby blue, providing some sanity to the visuals. Colors at the bottom of Page 3 show the reader Puck’s abilities. The moody blues of the previous three pages disappear on 4 to give way to the dull colors of a waiting room and hospital. The setting introduced on 10 starts out lavishly in ivory, but goes dark with the top panel on 11. I love the colors of the vehicle on 13, which, if one is familiar with this vehicle, is exactly how it’s described in the book. There’s an excellent tint given to 14 and 15 to visually show the reader that this is a past event. The color of the outfit on the person that appears on 16 makes it instant focus on every page it appears. Mohan is doing stellar work on this book. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Narration, a broadcast, scene settings (all the same font), sounds, dialogue, and the tease for next issue are brought to life by Bill Tortolini. I’d prefer to see the first three elements be a different font, rather than differentiated by the shape of the dialogue balloon and colors, but the rest of his creations look good. Overall grade: B+ 

The final line: An outstanding story with outstanding art. Perfect reading for fans of Dresden or first time readers. Overall grade: A-

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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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