Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files: Ghoul Goblin by Jim Butcher, Mark Powers, and Joseph Cooper is a graphic novel based on a new, original story that takes place within the Dresden Files universe (available December 3, 2013).
Fresh on the heels of the events of Fool Moon (Dresden Files, Book 2), our hero, wizard Harry Dresden, finds himself underwater, battling a powerful creature he’s never seen before. He wounds the monster, saving himself from a watery grave, but allowing it to escape in the process. Having caught only a persistent cold for his troubles, he fruitlessly continues his search for the creature over the next few days. Thus, he isn’t entirely unhappy for the distraction when another case shows up on his doorstep with the arrival of Prescott Tremaine, deputy sheriff of the small town of Boone Mill, Missouri. Several odd deaths have hit the town, and Pres, as he prefers to be called, has taken it upon himself to consult with an outsider whose area of expertise could help uncover the true circumstances of these deaths.
Dresden is somewhat reluctant to leave Chicago to investigate, till Pres explains that the family seemingly targeted, the Talbots, lost their parents at a very young age. Staring at the photos Pres brought with him, Dresden reflects:
A family of orphans… Given my own family history, I can't help but sympathize. My mother had died in childbirth, and I lost my father six years later to an aneurysm. I know what it is to be alone and vulnerable, to need to trust someone… and to have that trust betrayed, to have it ripped away like an old sheet covering something rotten and grotesque. I know what it's like to lose everything… and I know what it is to be responsible for loss.
Once in Boone Mill, Dresden is taken aback by the lackadaisical attitude of Sheriff Daggett, who’s ready to write off the deaths as being coincidental. Knowing that no help will be forthcoming from that direction, Pres and Dresden hatch a plan to attend the funeral of the latest victim the next day, under the assumption that the killer will likely be unable to resist attending as well.
Unfortunately for Dresden, his plans for the funeral bear fruit in unexpected ways: while a supernatural creature does make an appearance, it also starts an unseemly brawl before making its escape. None of these funeral-disrupting shenanigans endear Dresden to the rest of the town, and he soon finds himself fighting an uphill battle to persuade the Talbots to let him help protect them. Sheriff Daggett, who was none too keen on the idea of engaging an outside consultant to begin with, quickly becomes an adversary, though Dresden finds an unlikely ally in the steely, if aging, Mayor Cedar.
Soon enough, Dresden finds himself at the mercy of greater mystical powers than even he had foreseen. The story twists and turns to its dramatic ending, only briefly stepping off the gas pedal for scenes of quiet reflection, like this one where Dresden explains what it feels like to cast magic:
On one level, it feels amazing and… well, right. Like the way artists probably feel when they're in the groove. At the same time, it's humbling, even scary — you're tapping into something enormous, powerful, way bigger than yourself. Even the best of people, when they experience that power… well, seductive is too small a word.
Personally, I felt that this was one of the better Dresden stories I’ve ever read, even if it was based on a short story and not one of the full-length novels in the popular series. The inclusion of the different supernatural elements—I won’t say how many, so as not to spoil the surprise—was a real treat for a student of world mythologies like myself. I was also impressed by the original treatment by Jim Butcher that’s included in the bonus material: it’s darker than even the bittersweet tale told in these pages. And there’s a goodly amount of bonus material, both in prose and art, that really helps the reader appreciate the creators’ work process.
Of all the Dresden comics I’ve read so far, I have to say that the artist here was my favorite, as well. Joseph Cooper draws with a clarity and expressiveness that advances the plot without the burden of too much detail. My only complaint was the choice, which I’m sure was not solely his, to portray Mayor Cedar as elderly. A minor quibble in an otherwise fine graphic novel of supernatural detection that will especially please fans of The Dresden Files.
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Doreen Sheridan is a freelance writer living in Washington, D.C. She microblogs on Twitter @dvaleris.
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