With a new game coming out May 19th, CD Projekt Red has entered into a partnership with Dark Horse to produce a five-issue miniseries set in the Witcher universe. The Witcher games, based on the wildly popular novels by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski, follow Geralt of Rivia, a “witcher” or magically and genetically augmented monster-hunter. While the game deviates from the novels, both have maintained a growing fanbase and the miniseries likely already has a built-in market waiting for it. The only question remaining is whether the comics live up to the high bar set by Sapkowski and the writers of the Witcher games.
In The Witcher: Fox Children #1, the story follows Geralt and a handful of companions as they attempt to track down a young elven girl who has been stolen by a Vulpess. The Vulpess, a shape changer similar to the kitsune of Japanese myth, is known for illusion and trickery, and perpetuates its species by stealing elven children and transforming them into one of their own.
Geralt and his dwarf friend Addario Bach are effectively tricked into this quest after boarding a ship full of greedy traders looking to reap a reward for the return of the child, who is the daughter of a wealthy heiress. Despite Geralt’s warnings of danger, the traders intend to pursue the Vulpess, which makes for some interesting tensions on board the ship as it sails along the banks of a river.
Joe Querio’s artwork is intricate, and particularly effective for conveying facial expressions, but the addition of odd angles, extraneous detail and muddy colors can make it somewhat difficult to tell what’s going on in certain panels. Additions like two skeletal dogs fighting over a dead bird help to maintain the bleakness of the Witcher world, however, and unlike many artists, none of Querio’s characters bear any resemblance to one another. Querio’s strengths lie in facial construction and expression which meshes well with Paul Tobin’s writing, given the conversational bent of the first issue.
Clearer is the story, though it comes with the presumption that you are already familiar with the Witcher series and need little explanation regarding who Geralt is or what, exactly, the word “witcher” means. As someone only peripherally familiar with the games, I was able to grasp the basic conceits, but those completely completely unaware of the Witcher universe may find themselves lost. Tobin’s story itself is solid, however, and even secondary characters’ personalities and motivations are well-defined–a difficult task given the length of a single issue.
The first issue concludes with a cliffhanger, and the assumption that Geralt and his companions are being hunted, even as they are hunting the Vulpess. It’s enough to make even readers unfamiliar with the Witcher brand consider picking up the next issue of the mini-series to see what happens next.
Disclaimer: I received a digital review copy of the The Witcher: Fox Children #1 courtesy of Dark Horse Comics for the purpose of this review.