DJ Arruda ’16 and Ryan Smythe ’15 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
This week, Dark Horse released The Witcher: House of Glass #1, a comic book series based on the acclaimed video game series by CD Projekt Red. Due to the mixed reviews, Emertainment decided to give two writers an opportunity to review the comic–staff writers DJ Arruda, who has played the games, and Ryan Smythe, who has not, each give their take below.
Review (Played The Game) By DJ Arruda
Paul Tobin and Joe Querio bring Geralt of Rivia to a fresh medium in their new Dark Horse comic series. This first issue introduces readers to the titular Witcher in a way that captures his wry humor and gruff temperament which define his personality regardless of readers’ familiarity with the franchise. Fans of the game will be able to read the Witcher’s lines in Doug Cockle’s iconic voice, and will happily recognize their beloved protagonist in this different form. The narrative of this first issue focuses on character more than action, emphasizing Geralt’s character traits of resourcefulness and confidence juxtaposed against Jakob, the humble hunter. Much of the appeal of Geralt’s character is just how human he is despite being a mutant, and in his offhand comments about his dealings in towns and jaded world view. Tobin is able to capture the dark world in which this series is set without introducing the wider scope of politics that figure into the games, and instead shows how Jakob is anchored by his wife turned vampire Marta due to trying to head through the Black Forest. Geralt becomes his traveling partner, and in this introduction to the arc we get glimpses of monsters familiar to players like drowners, grave hags, and even a leshen, but the focus remains on this unlikely pair of hunters, one of animals, one of monsters.
The art style of Querio captures the bleak world of The Witcher in a unique yet precise way. The color pallet relies on mostly blacks and blues, browns and purples, creating a literally dark story from page to page that goes hand in hand with the morality and monsters in this world. Instances of brightness such as the songbirds and mysterious light from the House of Glass serve as distinct and purposeful differences from the otherwise gloomy colors. The characters and creatures are drawn in a way that makes them realistic to believe, yet also blurred and not completely distinct, which works well with the pallet. The script is fit in nicely with bubbles that seamlessly fit into the panels. Querio captures Geralt’s fearsome face, scarred and yellow eyed, in a way that makes him instantly recognizable, and his faithful steed Roach is back by his side. The grittiness of this art style overall holds true to the setting, separating itself from other contemporary comics and staying familiar to the style of the games.
The issue ends on a cliffhanger that is testament to just how invested Tobin makes the reader in the characters and the world, and sets the stage to see just what Marta has in store for her husband and the Witcher. A strong opening accurately brings Geralt and his world to Dark Horse’s realm, and looks only to grow into a worthy extension of the franchise over the next four issues.
Review (Did Not Play The Game) By Ryan Smythe
Coming into this comic never having played the games, a lot of questions immediately come up. Expecting to have at least the most basic of these answered, like what a Witcher is, turned out to be expecting far too much from writer Paul Tobin.
In fact, the only information given about the presumably titular character is that he can get very good wine because he is a Witcher. This is only revealed during a conversation with a character who, despite being told that his loving wife has been turned into a vampire, is impossible to care about.
This lack of care stems from the poor way his backstory explanation is handled. There is an attempt at creating an emotional connection, but readers are simply told to care instead of being shown why we should.
The art is a very different story, however. Artist Joe Querio uses a style very reminiscent of the Sunday paper’s Prince Valiant, albeit with a much darker tone. Working with colorist Carlos Badilla, the world takes on a distinctly eerie and malicious feel, almost as if something is waiting around every corner.
That turns out to be the case, as four different monsters show themselves in this first issue. The story itself makes it very unclear how dangerous each of these creatures are, but the final one shown puts such a panicked look on the character’s faces that it would qualify as at least a mini boss in the games.
Instances like that are where the artist picks up much of the slack. The brown and grey-heavy backgrounds enhance the vivid reds of blood stains and spills, often dripping from freshly killed creatures. Even the transition from muted lakeside blue to dirty green forests sets a tone that elicits trepidation without the need of words.
The popularity of the game franchise gives hope that there is somewhere interesting the story might go, but if the writing doesn’t pick up in quality, there doesn’t seem to be much hope for expanding its audience outside of current fans.