“Welcome to the Jungle” Review

jungle

So, while I’ve been enjoying my stay in Miami, I’ve come across a typical problem I have on these trips: wanting to do many, many things in the slowly dwindling time I have. Because of that, my efforts to read the next Dresden novel have been slow going, though I still plan to blog about it before I leave and possibly the one after it. In the meantime, one goal I had at the start of my trip was to go back a little and check out “Welcome to the Jungle,” a graphic novel prequel to the first Dresden novel, “Storm Front.” I figured I’d cover it this week (albeit a bit late) since I don’t know if I’ll be blogging at all in the coming week due to the convention and several other things. Without further ado, let’s jump into the plot.

Harry Dresden, looking a bit younger than when we meet him in “Storm Front,” is called to the scene of a murder at the local zoo. The police, with the exception of Karrin Murphy, believe a gorilla named Moe is the culprit. However, as is usually the case, it appears something more sinister and supernatural is at work. Harry must figure out whodunnit while keeping himself and those around him alive before they can become the culprit’s next victims.

For the most part, I liked this book. The story fit the tone of those from the novels and I could have seen this lengthened into a novel itself. I did feel it was less complicated and more predictable than his other outings, but for a shorter story it worked just fine and the zoo setting appealed to me. Given that Harry, Murphy, Bob, and Murphy’s partner Carmichael are the only reoccurring characters from the novels, I thought their dialogue was pretty spot-on. This was especially noticeable with Harry and Bob. The other one-off characters introduced fit in with the Dresden universe, and while I liked the main villain (even if it was obvious they were the culprit), my favorite was zoo assistant Willamena aka Will. She spends a lot of time being under Harry’s protection, but I thought she was a pretty well-written character and had a good dose of personality to boot.

Since this is a graphic novel, the illustrations of course pushed the story along. I found the artwork to be good, though I had some nitpicky issues with how Harry and Murphy in particular were represented. The art also did well capturing the tones the story was going for, especially in the darker, more macabre moments. However, one thing I noticed was that some panels seemed a bit static, as similar poses would be used next to each other while inner monologues would play out. Considering graphic novels have the benefit of “show, don’t tell,” I felt it could’ve taken more advantage of that.

Which brings me to my biggest gripe with the book: a lot of “tell” over “show.” While inner monologues and sometimes lengthy dialogue can work well in the novel format, it’s also used here and is far less effective. That’s not to say the dialogue or monologues aren’t interesting, as I was invested in what was going on. But what kept taking me out of the story every so often was how wordy it was. I found this happened the most whenever Harry would have his inner monologues, and it definitely felt like Jim Butcher’s first time writing for the graphic novel format. He crams so much information into nearly every panel that it feels like it might as well have been a novel instead. Like I said earlier, some of the imagery came off static as a result of all the information, so the “graphic” part of this “novel” suffers a little because of it.

Despite that, I would still recommend giving it a look. I can safely say it’s the weakest Dresden book I’ve read, but it was still enjoyable and fun to see a visual interpretation of the characters and the supernatural aspects. I would say that if you’re just starting the series, stick with “Storm Front,” but this is worth picking up either for cheap or as a library rental.

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