DresdenDownTownCoverHarry Dresden has always tried to help people in need, both as a private investigator and as a Warden of The White Council (the policemen of the magic-using community). He has a bit more help with protecting his hometown of Chicago these days, thanks to his apprentice Molly Carpenter—a sensitive with gifts for empathic magic and illusions—and his magical dog Mouse, who can smell supernatural menaces from a goodly distance away. Unfortunately, Harry also has the unwanted help of one of his oldest enemies.

“Gentleman” Johnnie Marcone is the current ruler of Chicago’s criminal underworld. He is also, thanks to Harry’s vouching for him in return for a favor needed to save the world, the first mortal man to sign The Unseelie Accords. A magical peace treaty between various supernatural powers, The Accords set the code of conduct, rules of engagement, and spheres of influence between most of the magical creatures in the world.

By signing The Accords, Marcone has been given power over all of Chicago on a spiritual level. But with that power comes responsibility and Marcone takes his responsibilities seriously. Thus, Harry has to contend with Marcone and his followers taking action to protect the city from unruly werewolves and wicked faeries whether he likes it or not. And he doesn’t!

Unfortunately, Dresden and Marcone will have need of each other as their separate investigations cross paths, for someone is using black magic and an unusual construct to kill people who paid Johnnie Marcone for protection. The trail to the errant sorcerer leads both men and their entourages into the literal underworld of Chicago, a place where even the things that go bump in the night fear to tread, the magical ghetto known as Undertown!

Mark Powers and Jim Butcher have once again crafted a perfect addition to the world of Butcher’s Dresden Files novels. Set immediately after the events of the book White Night, Down Town will prove accessible to new readers despite some hefty continuity. Yet, there are a number of shout-outs to the original novels that long-time fans of Harry Dresden will appreciate.

However, these moments are the one oddity in the script. While it’s nice to see Harry’s allies in the Chicago Police Department, the scenes with Karrin Murphy and her partner Detective Rawlins aren’t strictly necessary. Neither is a scene in which Harry checks in on his half-brother, Thomas, who doesn’t have any role in the action of the story. These scenes are a good bit of fan-service, but totally superfluous to the plot.

The artwork of Carlos Gomez also proves somewhat more problematic. While not as exaggerated as in the earlier Dresden Files: War Cry, Gomez still has issues with his depictions of female characters. Ironically, this isn’t as much of a problem with punk-girl Molly as it is with Gomez’s depiction of Ms. Gard—a literal Valkyrie employed by Marcone as a trouble-shooter and bodyguard, who is depicted wielding a battle-axe in an absurdly tight skirt.

Another problem that has carried over from War Cry is the incongruities between the dialogue and Gomez’ artwork. For instance, at one point Harry deals with a civilian who has been infected with a magical plague. The citizen greets Harry, but refuses to shake his hand on account of the disease spreading by touch. The artwork then depicts Harry touching the man on the shoulder and even stroking his chin (?!) as Harry reassures him that he will be saved.

This volume is rated for audiences 13 and up, and I consider that to be a fair assessment. There’s a fair amount of disturbing imagery and language, but nothing most teenagers will prove unable to handle. Librarians will probably want to put this volume in adult fiction however, so that it may more easily be found by Dresden Files fans rather than graphic novel readers.

The Dresden Files: Downtown, vol. 1
by Jim Butcher, Mark Powers
Art by Carlos Gomez
ISBN: 9781606907009
Dynamite Entertainment, 2015
Publisher Age Rating: Teen + (13+)

  • Matt

    | He/Him Librarian

    Reviewer

    A librarian with over 10 years experience in public and academic settings, Matthew Morrison has been blogging about comic books for nearly as long as they’ve had a word for it.  Over the past two decades, he has written regular columns, commentary, parodies and reviews for such websites and blogs as Fanzing, 411 Mania, Screen Rant and Comics Nexus.  He has served as an Expert in Residence for a seminar on Graphic Novels and Comics for Youth and Adults at the University of North Texas and has given several lectures on the history of comics, manga and cosplay culture at libraries and comic conventions around the country. In addition to his work for No Flying No Tights, he is the Contributing Editor of Kabooooom.com and maintains a personal blog at MyGeekyGeekyWays.com.

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