Welcome to the Jungle marks Harry Dresden’s—and Jim Butcher’s—debut in the world of comics and graphic novels. It was originally published in four single-issue comics from April to July 2008 by Dabel Brothers, and is now available in a single compilation in hardback and paperback from Del Rey. The illustrations are done by Ardian Syaf, with several cover illustrations done by Chris McGrath, who also does the covers for the regular novels.
Set prior to Storm Front (Dresden Files #1), Welcome to the Jungle gives us a glimpse into Harry’s early days as a professional wizard and police consultant. There’s been a suspicious murder at the Chicago Zoo which lands on Lt. Murphy’s case load because nothing about it quite makes sense. Rather than take the easy explanation, which is also full of holes, Murphy calls in Harry to investigate.
Tidbits of backstory
A large part of the appeal of this work are the slices of Harry’s backstory that we get, including some bits about Justine DuMorne. By the time we meet Harry in Storm Front and as we move through the series, Harry thinks and talks about DuMorne less and less. However, his experiences with his mentor are still very fresh in his mind during Welcome to the Jungle. We also get to see Harry and Murphy interact before they’ve become friends, while Murphy is still trying to figure out whether or not Harry is a good guy. She just barely trusts him at this point, and there’s no camaraderie. She just wants this case solved in a manner that she can sell to the higher ups without looking like a crazy person.
Some major flaws
There are two things that really bug me about this graphic novel. First, the plot is very obvious and predictable. This can be partially attributed the inherent simplicity of doing a complete plot arc in a four-issue sized graphic novel. This is also a murder mystery, so it follows a straight forward and familiar formula. Another major issue was that there was a rather large span of time given over to pages of fight scenes. These scenes are always a big part of the Dresden Files, and while here they are further supporting the idea that Harry hasn’t quite hit his stride as a wizard yet, they take up a lot of much-needed space.
I’m also going to rant about the sidekick/damsel-in-distress in this book. About the only thing of any interest that Butcher has given this girl is the name Will (short for Willamena) Rogers. After that, she’s a shapely geek who somehow manages to have a perfect willowy hourglass figure while wearing a khaki zoo uniform. She’s extremely meek and spends nearly her entire time on the pages literally cowering behind Harry. Seriously? With the wonderful number of ass-kicking women (including Murphy!) who inhabit the rest of the Dresden Files, this was the best you could do? Will is literally nothing but eye-candy for the male reader (complete with pin-up poses), and is absolutely useless except for one brief scene.
Why you should read this comic?
Honestly? Because you love the Dresden Files. There’s not enough here to warrant picking it up otherwise. While the illustrations are good, and it’s fun to actually see Murphy’s reactions instead of imagine them, there’s not enough here plot-wise for Welcome to the Jungle to fully stand on its own. In my opinion, it’s not that great a graphic novel. However, that may just be my opinion; it was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story in 2009.