I’ve played some of The Witcher games and while I didn’t think they were anything phenomenal, I liked them enough to pick up this 5-issue mini-series put out by Dark Horse, just to see what they did with the main character, Geralt.
So here’s my look at The Witcher. Stay out of the woods and away from the places of the cursed.
When Geralt comes across a hunter in the woods, they bond over wine and Jakob tells Geralt the sad story of his lost wife, imprisoned somewhere in the woods and Geralt, feeling friendship toward Jakob, agrees to help him. What happens next is a horror show, trapped within the unforgiving woods, surrounded by the cursed and other evil spirits who seek to keep them forever. But what of Jakob’s lost wife and how does she fit into all of this? That’s the tale we’re here to learn about.
Like the games, this is equal parts low fantasy and survival horror, spells being cast and monsters on the attack, all while Geralt, a complete anti-hero, looks on. Writer Paul Tobin gets Geralt immediately, he knows that Geralt isn’t a misunderstood hero, he isn’t a sympathetic character, he’s a killer that operates by his own rules and doesn’t much care if those rules are acceptable to those around him. Geralt is part force of nature, part embodiment of justice. You don’t have to have played the original source material or read the books either, Tobin sets out the ground rules pretty well and you just get Geralt’s gestalt quite easily.
The art, done by Joe Querio, is the same kind of scratchy work that I’ve criticized in other books but here, it works. It keeps the dark tone of the book and makes things feel creepy and disjointed, exactly what’s called for.
Perhaps my only real complaint, if you want to call it that, is it feels just like a video game. The pacing is extremely similar to how a lot of these games are put together. You get exposition, then a big fight, more dialogue, then a boss battle. All of this comes from books that, while I’ve heard they are good, I haven’t read them myself so I can’t say where this particular model came from, only that I recognized it right away. It’s neither good nor bad, it just feels a little out of place in a comic book. The ending, even though it is completely in character for Geralt, feels a bit anti-climactic though. Sure, he solves the mystery and escapes from the forest but it feels like “just another day for a Witcher”. Geralt doesn’t seem to have gotten anything out of it, he didn’t learn anything, he just survived it and moves on to something else.
If you’re a fan of the games, by all means pick this up, it’s a good read that doesn’t require you to have any prior knowledge, but the more you understand about Geralt, the more depth you can probably get out of it.