Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Dresden Files: Latest & First

About a month ago, news broke that the latest novel in the Dresden Files series, Cold Days, will be released on November 27th.  Also revealed were the cover design and descriptive blurb:


After being murdered by a mystery assailant, navigating his way through the realm between life and death, and being brought back to the mortal world, Harry realizes that maybe death wasn’t all that bad. Because he is no longer Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard.

He is now Harry Dresden, Winter Knight to Mab, the Queen of Air and Darkness. After Harry had no choice but to swear his fealty, Mab wasn’t about to let something as petty as death steal away the prize she had sought for so long. And now, her word is his command, no matter what she wants him to do, no matter where she wants him to go, and no matter who she wants him to kill.

Guess which Mab wants first?

Of course, it won’t be an ordinary, everyday assassination. Mab wants her newest minion to pull off the impossible: kill an immortal. No problem there, right? And to make matters worse, there exists a growing threat to an unfathomable source of magic that could land Harry in the sort of trouble that will make death look like a holiday.

Beset by enemies new and old, Harry must gather his friends and allies, prevent the annihilation of countless innocents, and find a way out of his eternal subservience before his newfound powers claim the only thing he has left to call his own . . .

His soul.
Well, that sounds cool1. Lots of questions are raised by this, such as who the immortal Harry's supposed to kill is, and whether they're someone, or even a type of someone, we've met before. And it's very interesting that the blurb is already talking about Harry getting out of being the Winter Knight - I would have expected that arc to stick around for another few books, or maybe even until the end of the series.

That cover art is pretty interesting, too - now, in the past the cover art has never tracked too closely to the plot of the novel (it's never been inaccurate, save for that hat, mind you, but trying to divine plot details from the art has usually2 proven futile), but for this one we have a fairly major shift in that Harry's carrying a rifle instead of his staff. So that could indicate that Harry's going to be switching up and/or expanding his tactical repertoire, especially if this immortal person is someone he can't get out of killing.

Anyway, I'm quite excited about this news - hopefully the preview chapters will be up sooner rather than later (rumor is the first to are in the paperback of Ghost Story - I'll have to see if I can scrounge one of those up).

In the meantime, I've been thinking for a while of giving the whole series a re-read, and this seems like the proverbial opportune moment. Hopefully it'll also make for some good blogging!

Before digging into Storm Front, I'd like to take a look at the two Dresden Files prequels, A Restoration of Faith and Welcome to the Jungle.

Chronologically the earliest of Harry's adventures, A Restoration of Faith is available in both prose and graphic formats - the latter as part of a 2009 Free Comic Book Day item. There are a couple discrepancies between the two versions, mostly some elided dialogue that doesn't really alter the flow of the plot.

According to the introduction in the Side Jobs collection, this was the first piece ever written by Jim for the Dresden Files universe. Per his comments elsewhere, that means that the noirish influence is particularly high - in particular, the Astors' betrayal of Ragged Angel Investigations strikes me as very typical of that genre. I also noted the particularly fairy-tale-ish nature of the story's main physical menace,  Gogoth the bridge-dwelling troll. That little habit contrasts interestingly with Harry's assertion that the Unseelie Accords (one of several things mentioned in the story to be elaborated on later, also including the nature of Santa Claus) limits Gogoth's traditional prey. Of course, the troll responds "Naughty children still mine," and the fight is on. Luckily a certain Officer Murphy is nearby . . .

There is one small problem with the comic being so close an adaptation of the prose, however. Being that The Dresden Files is written from the first person, an awful lot of the text is introspective, leading to some distractingly big text blocks. This is somewhat less of a problem in Welcome to the Jungle, which was conceived and written as a comic from the first. This circumstance also allows for jokes which would be impossible without the visual component to the medium:

But jokes aside, Welcome to the Jungle is a nice little story. It definitely shows signs of being a prequel rather than an earlier story - the hags' plot is very reminiscent of the Darkhollow from Dead Beat, for  example, and the flashbacks to Harry's childhood are much more powerful knowing what he'll discover about the events depicted3 in the future . . . not to mention seeing the Blue Beetle back when it was still blue. Now that I think about it, actually, some of the replacement panels may very well be from the Black Dog attack shown here (Harry's comment during that attack about being a "cat person" is another one of those jokes that's more powerful because of later events).

All in all, though it has its ups and downs, if Jim ever does another original graphic Dresden story, I wouldn't hesitate to snap it up. And there have been several other short prose stories - a whole book's worth, in fact - which I will be sure to mention when we get to them. But next up comes Harry Dresden's official debut, Storm Front!

1Sorry, couldn't help it.
2OK, the cover of Ghost Story had Harry in front of his grave, which he did in fact visit during the story. So there's that.
3Though not depicted quite as Harry remembers them elsewhere.

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