Fool Moon, Volume 2, by Jim Butcher is a graphic novel adaptation of the second novel in the Harry Dresden series (available April 23, 2013).
Jim Butcher is the author of a wildly popular paranormal crime series called The Dresden Files, which features Harry Dresden, wizard and private eye. As with other popular titles in the genre (notably the Anita Blake series), it was almost inevitable that the cinematic qualities of the novels be translated to comics form and, for a while, to a series on Syfy.
Dynamite Comics has worked with Jim Butcher to present a faithful rendering of Fool Moon, the second book of The Dresden Files. This volume collects issues five to eight, with a precis at the beginning to catch up readers on what occurred in the first four issues. Dresden has found himself losing allies left and right as at least three groups of werewolves—all with their own carefully delineated and unique origins—have taken to the streets of Chicago. Enter a powerful mobster and a team of FBI agents, all with an interest in him too, and Dresden soon finds himself hunted at all turns, especially since he’s lost the trust of his only ally in the police department, Lieutenant Karrin Murphy.
Dresden tries to warn Murphy that Harley Macfinn, the man they’ve arrested for the savage murders that have terrorized the city, is not only incredibly dangerous—in all likelihood, the most dangerous of the shapeshifters—but nearly impossible to restrain. Macfinn is a loup-garou, a man cursed to lose his human senses at the dawning of the full moon and to lash out in all his supernaturally augmented bestial nature if not properly, magically secured beforehand. His fiancee, Tera, knows that he’s innocent of the crimes the police have charged him with and wants Dresden to help her contain him, which is where this volume begins. Dresden uses his magical abilities to infiltrate police headquarters… just as the newly risen full moon unleashes a transformed Macfinn on the inhabitants.
Like any hard-boiled detective worth his salt, Dresden takes a savage beating as he tries to protect people from the loup-garou. A combination of his magical abilities and Murphy being a raging badass subdue Macfinn for a while, but when Macfinn escapes, Dresden must also elude an irate Murphy in order to track down the still dangerous loup-garou. Along the way, he runs afoul of a lycanthropic gang called The Streetwolves, in a confrontation straight out of the juiciest pulp fiction, but with a magical twist:
There was a momentary flash of dimness, the streetlight seemed to fade, the rain to grow very cold. A creeping vine of uncertainty was wrapping around me as my arm [holding the wand] began to ache. The potion was giving out on me. I’d pushed myself way too hard while that initial euphoria washed over me. I told myself to stay calm, that all I had to was keep them there until the cops arrived… instead, I panicked.
After losing yet another physical altercation so soon after the last, Dresden is captured by the gang. It is in captivity, however, that he finally begins to piece together the real picture of the real force behind all the murder and mayhem… and constructs a plan to end it.
Besides the intriguing plot twists, a large part of the appeal of The Dresden Files is the main character himself. With an almost pathological need to protect the people around him (and a correspondingly large pool of guilt to wallow in when he inevitably fails, usually through circumstances beyond his control) Harry Dresden is your archetypal white knight, if a magic-wielding modern-day gumshoe version. He’s tough on himself when he fails, but as in the excerpt above, is fully capable of a wry self-criticism that isn’t crippling. It’s easy to cheer for him, too, when he digs deep into the core of himself to confront the bad guys:
I searched inside me, where everything was numb and tired. I needed to find enough magic to stop this bloodletting once and for all. My magic. That was the heart of me, the manifestation of what I believed and lived. The desire to stand between people and the darkness that would devour them… the hope that I could make things better for someone else, if not always myself.
This volume also includes several pages of the original script co-authored by Jim Butcher and Mark Powers, with accompanying pencil sketches. Reading through the book the first time, I appreciated how the art capably served the story. There’s a scene at the garage, for example, in which Dresden slams a door behind him that does far better in pictures than any words could do. The line drawings at the end, however, were exceptional. The use of light shading brought a clean line that served to highlight by contrast the grim, gritty parts of the story they illustrated.
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Doreen Sheridan is a freelance writer living in Washington, D.C. She microblogs on Twitter @dvaleris.
Read all posts by Doreen Sheridan for Criminal Element.