In Dog Men, Harry Dresden Battles Ghouls and PTSD

Harry Dresden is having nightmares. In his dreams, all the people he cares about are shredded by the forces of evil and he is powerless to stop it.

When he wakes, his apartment is dirty, his refrigerator empty. Even his giant Foo Dog, Mouse, is concerned about his master and follows him around, trying to get him to eat. But Harry has seen too much violence and loss lately, and his determination to protect the innocent is turning into a buried rage at his own powerlessness. Some may have been able to just check out when events spun out of their control. But, as Harry himself says, “I’m one of those guys who can’t stand to be a passenger.”

Dog Men cover art

Dog Men cover art by Diego Galindo. Dynamite Entertainment

That’s what has always made Harry special: his empathy, his concern for the innocent, and the fact that he isn’t the most powerful being in town—like us, he’s infinitely fallible. He’s a tattered cowboy with a good heart and a spotty past. But despite being a caring man with a network of friends and allies that crosses boundaries others can’t, Harry ultimately is a lone wolf whose core need is to fulfill his own sense of honor when light and dark and the line between the two are not always clear.

And now, it’s Harry who is in danger of losing himself to the dark.

In Dog Men, cowriters Jim Butcher and Mark Powers team up with illustrator Diego Galindo for the latest graphic-novel installment in the Dresden Files series. Harry’s new case is brought to him by Listens-to-Wind, an ancient, demigodlike member of the White Council to which Harry owes allegiance as a Warden and who once saved Harry’s life (Summer Knight). In rural Mississippi, a series of brutal deaths indicates a supernatural aggressor. All signs point to the massively powerful wolf people—who aren’t shapechangers, like werewolves—as the perpetrators, but Listens-to-Wind thinks otherwise. As events unfold, Harry has to figure out what is the right thing to do: avenge those he cares for, attempt to wipe out all enemies indiscriminately against overwhelming odds and fail, or find a third way.

There’s a lot to like about this story and its visual presentation. It shows off Butcher’s signature tight plotting, and the fact that Harry’s core sympathetic characteristics are on the line ups the ante considerably. The art is high-quality action realism, colored with a dark palette that befits the crime-noir vibe of the Dresden series. But other than Harry, all the characters in this story are paper cutouts—caricatures and stereotypes. The lack of complexity in these characters made it hard for me to care about what happened to them, and if I don’t care about them, I don’t care whether Harry does. Also, the way Harry is drawn gives him a real tough-guy look, which doesn’t jibe with the impression I previously got of him from the books and, quite frankly, makes me disconnect emotionally even more. (Readers who like tough guys will, of course, have a very different reaction.)

However, overall, the tight plotting, dramatic action, and “lonely cowboy” theme make this three-issue volume a decent addition to the Dresden saga. It is one that diehard fans will not want to miss.

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