Fans of Jim Butcher and paranormal police procedural with a paranormal slant will be (or should) be familiar with Chicago’s Wizard P.I., Harry Dresden. The worldwide organization of human wizards known as the White Council had considered Dresden an exile for years. A brutal war has decimated the wizards of the White Council. Desperate, they establish Dresden as a Warden and has him oversee a group of wizards. Wizards that are talented but are not as experienced in combat as Dresden.The graphic novel is a compilation of five issues with a very informative set up that explains the previous stories. Enough to get the War Cry story arc going but leaves enough details that curious minds could revert back to it. War Cry follows four months after Dresden Files: Dead Beat. Dresden and his group of newbie wizards travel to Iowa on a top secret mission from the White Council. The mission to go to protect members of the Venatori Umbrorum which the Red Council is planning on attacking. scholars. Why should they guard this group is unknown only that they must save them. They barely arrive at the house before they are besieged by a group of flying fanged creatures. No bloodsucking was seen so I think these creatures were less vampiric and more gargoyle-ish. The group barely makes it inside the house before the next large siege occurs. The story continues as the humans of the Venatori Umbrorum and the wizards are fighting for their lives inside the house. Even though the initial plan was to take the humans and escape, Ramirez finds the reason for the attack. The Venatori Umbrorum house is hiding something ancient, something monstrous,and even the Red Council are afraid of it.
The art is not ground breaking, it is very neutral in style. It serves the purpose of just showing the actions. The violence and gore in the pages are very scaled down. Either it depicts before or after the violent action. There are still some scenes that wouldn’t be appropriate for very young audiences. The style does not reflect what I could consider a Dresden aethestic. From what I have read of the series, the stories are dark, gritty, and full of action. Since Dresden is often described as a noir-type of character, this makes sense. Instead, the art in this collection was a little too cartoon-ish and bright. It still carried the story but it did not carry the despair and turmoil that the exposition was describing.
Keeping up with the noir theme, there was even a sexy dame in the form of Catherine Taylor. The blatant panels of fan service snagged my vision until I reminded myself that Dresden is a noir. So the ridiculously, high slit in the skirt and the down shot panel of her cleavage elicited a smirk as reading continued.
Dresden is a such a strong and iconic characters (at this point, how could he not be? There are at least a dozen books in the Dresden world), that the story was still worth following. The inexperienced wizards in his group added a whole level of vulnerability and selflessness to Dresden. Of all the characters, Ramirez was the standout favorite. Almost like a Zorro-fied wizard, he oozed womanizing charm and warrior strength in the panels that he appeared in. Of all the young wizards, he was the most useful and reliable one. Yoshimo pretty much faded into the background, doing nothing spectacular while “Wild Bill” was the most useless and rash one. Seriously surprised he did not die.
This is one of the few series that the story and characters are so riveting that the artwork and angles can be forgiven. Just like in the novels, the graphic novel is heavy on noir-style first person exposition. Which can be annoying at first but Dresden is too cool not follow along.
So what was the horrible thing that was being hidden? Lovecraft fans would recognize it but I had to look it up.
(Writer confession: I can recognize Lovecraft creatures but I have not read a single Lovecraft novel)
It was a terrible, indescribable thing vaster than any subway train—a shapeless congeries of protoplasmic bubbles, faintly self-luminous, and with myriads of temporary eyes forming and un-forming as pustules of greenish light all over the tunnel-filling front that bore down upon us, crushing the frantic penguins and slithering over the glistening floor that it and its kind had swept so evilly free of all litter.—H. P. Lovecraft, At The Mountains of Madness
So describes the Shoggoth. In War Cry, the Shoggoth looked more like a very large wad of taffy collecting trash as it traveled. This looked more scarier than was depicted in the graphic novel. Even though the look wasn’t scary, the way that the Shoggoth operated that made it pretty formidable. The Shoggoth would consume anything that was sentient. It would also emitting psychic waves to mess up victims before consuming it. The final scenes with Dresden running for his life as he tried to keep focused was pretty damn intense.
The novel ends with a cliff hanger exposing the name and silhouette of the betrayer in the White Council. Since I am not well versed in the Dresden files, this does not ring any bells.
All in all, it was a very good read. Unfortunately the artwork really fell short of matching the noir style but it did not detract from reading it all the way through. If Dynamite continues this art style for the next story arc, then I would rather pick up the novels instead of the graphic novels.
Become familiar with Harry Dresden, check out Jim Butcher‘s website.
Dresden Files: War Cry is available from Dynamite November 2014.