This is a story that is as witcher as witcher stories get! The famed, troubled monster hunter Geralt stumbles upon a man catching fish in a stream and asks to rest his horse. The man offers up his pack of onions and cheese, even offering to split the fish if Geralt can wait for it to be cooked. The witcher is happy to have it, offering his wine in return. It turns out it was more than just cheap fish and veggies that pulled him over, however, as a monster sets upon them, but is quickly dispatched. The hunter, Jakob, however, reveals another monster that has been following him, this one not so much driven by instinct as much as a far more powerful force. One that leads Geralt to question how best to proceed next. Paul Tobin has absolutely nailed the voice of the legendary witcher and the setting that Andrzej Sapkowski set two decades ago in his dark fantasy series, originally published in Polish. The setting is dark and dreary enough for sure, the monsters lurking around every corner of the dreary land, and Geralt is as much of a stoic, needs-driven nomad as he always is. Even Jakob is more than a bumbling, stock character, but is written with a surprising amount of depth, particularly when his tragic story is revealed. Tobin does an amazing job of quickly establishing sympathy for the hunter without resorting to quick and easy tropes.
Joe Querio’s linework is simplistic and gritty, which is precisely the look that a book like this should aspire to. When I say simplistic, I don’t mean it looks lazy or slapdash, it looks entirely appropriate for this world and its cheapness of life. The action and the facial expressions get a lot of credit for carrying so much of the atmosphere and helping to establish the characters. They look like the kinds of things you’d read in a quality version of “Morte d'Arthur.” I can’t talk about the visuals without praising the gorgeous colors by Dave Johnson and Dan Panosian. Again: understatement is the name of the game here and they absolutely get the atmosphere that should be conveyed in a story like this. It takes place at night, everything is subdued and somewhat horrible, but that’s exactly as it should be in this world.
How well did you understand my opening few sentences? That’s going to directly correlate with your enjoyment of this comic because there are no two ways about it: this comic is for fans of the Witcher. Whether it be the novels or the videogames, some familiarity with this world is going to help you enjoy this comic enormously and while there’s nothing in it that’s completely unapproachable, there’s very little exposition as to exactly what a “witcher” is or how he knows and does the things he does.
Near the middle of the issue, we’re introduced to a veritable gauntlet of monsters, but most of them don’t have much bearing on the story and could have easily been excised altogether. On in particular, the grave hag, serves only to drive the characters in the direction they were already going. It may be that the encounters serve a greater purpose later, and I hope they do, but for now they seem superfluous.
Even if you’re not a fan of the Witcher media already, I think there’s a lot in this book to enjoy, but if you are, this is a must-buy. Either way, if you’re onboard for a tale of dark, tragic fantasy you’ll find something to enjoy here. The main character may not quite resonate for those who don’t already know what he’s about, but Jakob helps ease things along by giving the reader someone to immediately relate to and the monsters and setting makes this book unlike many others on the shelf.