Young, attractive women dying isn’t unusual in Chicago; young, attractive women dying without any visible signs of trauma or so much as a scratch on their bodies is. And in Chicago, when people die in a way that can’t be easily explained, the police call in Harry Dresden—wizard P.I. and star of the Dresden Files series of prose books by Jim Butcher.
Assisted by his new apprentice, psychic empath Molly Carpenter, Harry quickly determines that the ladies in question didn’t die of natural causes. All the signs point to Clan Raith of The White Court of Vampires, a family of psychic parasites who provoke and feed upon the emotions of others. Kisses to die for are their specialty.
There’s just one problem with that scenario. The trail is far too obvious and The White Court is usually good about cleaning up their crime scenes. It’s also incredibly rare for the sensualists of the lust-inspiring Raith family to drain a target to death.
Matters become more complicated when the bodies of several White Court vampires—dead from a gangland-style execution—are sent back to the estate of The White King. It looks like the handiwork of “Gentleman” John Marcone, King of Chicago’s underworld and Baron of Chicago under The Unseelie Accords, which govern the interactions between the various supernatural powers.
Again, the signs are obvious. Too obvious. And Marcone is not in the habit of being obvious when he decides people need to die. Neither are the CPD, whom Marcone blames when several of his men turn up dead with the bullet casings of a police-issue firearm nearby. And then Harry’s best friend, Detective Karrin Murphy, is attacked by a man who looks like a White Court vampire…
All of this adds up to one conclusion in Harry Dresden’s mind: some shapeshifter is trying to start a war between three of Chicago’s most powerful factions. But who is the wild card responsible? And how can Harry possibly stop them before all Hell breaks loose?
I’ve had a generally low opinion of the various Dresden Files graphic novel adaptations to date but Wild Card is easily the worst of the lot! In previous volumes, the problems were generally limited to gratuitous fan-service and continuity problems between the text and the artwork. Here, the story itself is the stickiest wicket.
The base plot of Wild Card beggars belief. One of the firmest rules of the world of The Dresden Files is that normal mortals are mentally incapable of accepting the existence of the supernatural. By the same token, exposure to the mortal world is one of the firmest taboos among the various supernatural powers.
Ignoring that the leaders of The White Court and John Marcone should not be stupid enough to fall for such an obvious feint in the first place, they also shouldn’t be operating as openly as they do in this story. Nor should the Special Investigations Unit—the black sheep of the Chicago PD—be able to garner the firepower they show when they elect to go after Marcone and The White Court. That fact ignores that Marcone and The Raiths had both previously been too well-connected politically for the police to touch them in previous Dresden Files stories.
Additionally, this story features a number of continuity errors relating to the other books in the Dresden Files series. For instance, Molly claims that the two dead women in the prologue had their souls removed from their bodies. This is held up as evidence of White Court involvement, despite this contradicting what we know of what happens when a White Court vampire kills a person. Another issue is the presence of Harry’s fairy godmother Lea, whom it had been established Harry hadn’t seen for several years including the span of time in which this story is set.
The usual problems with Carlos Gomez’s art still apply, particularly the disparity between what is described in the text and what the artwork shows. For instance, the shape-shifting villain is drawn with the same inhuman visage throughout, despite the text describing how he manipulates himself to look like various figures. To Gomez’s credit, his designs for the characters generally match the descriptions from the original novels fairly well. The one exception is Molly Carpenter, who is described as being a tall bombshell yet is drawn as a waifish figure, barely taller than the five-foot-nothing Karrin Murphy!
Dresden Files: Wild Card is recommended for audiences 15 and up by the publisher. I believe that’s a fair assessment of the content, but I would not recommend this graphic novel to anyone. Dresden Files die-hards will be too busy picking the characterization and story apart to enjoy what few good bits there are and new readers will be completely lost. Those wishing a good entry point into the Dresden mythos would do well to check out the far superior Welcome To The Jungle.
Dresden Files: Wild Card
By Mark Powers and Jim Butcher
Art by Carlos Gomez
Dynamite Entertainment, 2016
Publisher Age Rating: 15+