Not your father’s funny books—The Dresden Files: Storm Front and Mercy Thompson: Homecoming

Back in the days of 10- and 12-cent comic books, the only place you could find an illustrated version of a novel actually would cost you 15 cents. Classics Illustrated was a reasonably good way to pretend a knowledge of quality literature and a darned good way to come up with a last-minute book report. As I recall, science fiction was only represented by Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Frankenstein, and a few works by Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, none of which would have been acceptable for book reports by the nuns who taught me.

Today’s graphic novels may be a bit more pricey, but the number of titles available is daunting, the artwork is amazing, and science fiction, fantasy, and horror occupy center stage. For new readers who just want a taste of what to expect, graphic novels can be great introductions. And established fans should enjoy visiting these interpretations of their favorite works.

Here are a couple of titles:
Storm Front: Vol.1, The Gathering Storm, adapted by Mark Powers, is the second graphic novel from Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files, but, it is the first that is a direct adaption from the novels. Last year’s Welcome to the Jungle serves as a prequel to the series. Harry Dresden is “the only openly practicing wizard in beautiful downtown Chicago.”  And he is in the private detective business.

Harry is a good first name for a wizard, and Dresden and Potter actually have a few similarities. Both occasionally get smacked around, and both have a difficult time following through with the ladies. And both wizards barely scrape by when up against some pretty nasty demons.

In Storm Front expect a lot more graphic nastiness than in the Potter series. What you get here is lovers whose chests explode, vampires, a talking skull, mobsters, faeries, a troll, Dresden as naked as Daniel Radcliffe was in Equus, and one of the ugliest demons on record. Adrian Syaf’s art is terrific throughout. There is even a bonus short story with art by Kevin Mellon that predates the Dresden Files.

The only disappointment is the fact that this is only Volume 1 of Storm Front, and nothing much gets resolved. Graphic novels, by their nature take time, so it will be a while before Volume 2 comes out.

Mercy Thompson: Homecoming is an original graphic novel that serves as an introduction to a planned comic book series of novelizations of Patricia Briggs’s bestselling books about a woman in southern Washington’s tri-cities (Kennewick, Pasco and Richland), who has the power to change into a coyote.

The nuns back in my grammar school would have been horrified by this one, as page 5 finds Mercy, recently transformed from coyote to human, running naked across the page. In fact, since coyotes don’t wear clothes, Mercy is required to do a lot of nude scenes—all integral to the plot and tastefully done by the several artists who contributed to the book.

The problems here deal with a battle between the nice (in a manner of speaking) werewolves and the bad werewolves in the area, and how Mercy gets in the middle of it.

In addition, it is pretty difficult for this pretty shapeshifter with a teacher’s certificate to find a social studies job in the tri-cities. But Mercy is a coyote of many talents, and she will probably be happier as an auto mechanic anyway, if only she can convince the garage owner to keep her on.  Middle school students make werewolves look pretty tame.

Though the story is complete and satisfying in itself, count on a lot of hints of secrets to be revealed in future episodes. And this introduction to Mercy Thompson’s universe beckons readers to start reading Patricia Briggs’s books, even without the pictures.

Mark Graham reviewed books for the Rocky Mountain News from 1977 until the paper closed its doors in February 2009. His “Unreal Worlds” column on science fiction and fantasy appeared regularly in the paper for over 20 years. He has reviewed well over 1,000 genre books. If you see a Rocky Mountain News blurb on a book, it is likely from a review or interview he wrote. Graham also created and taught Unreal Literature, a high school science fiction class, for nearly 30 years in the Jefferson County Colorado public schools.


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