Story: Bartosz Sztybor
Art: Amad Mir
Colors: Hamidreza Sheykh
Letterer: Steve Dutro
Covers: Evan Cagle, Jeremy Wilson
What They Say: What is a Witcher without monsters to slay? That’s a question Geralt of Rivia must ask himself as the threat of monsters seems to vanish from his world, leaving him impoverished and dejected. As the times change, Geralt must explore the new possibilities that a life without monster-hunting offer…that is, until he receives a request from the Mayor of Towitz, and finds that there’s something off about the threat he faces with this task.
Content: (no spoilers)
The Witcher: Fading Memories is the story of Geralt in a world where monsters are vanishing, and his role as a Witcher is steadily becoming obsolete. Given a role where slowing down means the end, Geralt is faced with the reality that he needs to find a new life path, or vanish himself. It’s a timely tale that comes amidst real-world strife: strife that readily exists in Geralt’s world, even if it seems like the era of Witchers is at its end.
We find Geralt in a forest astride his horse Roach in a world that hasn’t necessarily forgotten Witcher, but rather, has no need of Witchers, at least not right now. When he heads into a tavern, there’s no warm welcome or excited reception: there’s just everyday scorn from hardscrabble folks who want a world with nothing more threatening than an empty coin pouch. Moreso, there’s a stark lack of kindness to a Witcher who’s down on his luck.
Thankfully, a kind stranger comes and offers Geralt a bit of purpose: a job helping him haul in the daily catch. Geralt takes up the job with no hesitation, casting nets into the sea and hauling in boatloads of fish. In many ways, it’s nice to see him at ease. Yet just as soon as this job has begun, Geralt finds himself with an all-too-familiar task: a request to slay some monsters. His quest will take him to Northern Poviss, away from the sea where he’s helped haul fish, and back into the life of a Witcher. Without hesitation, Geralt is back astride Roach, and off to Towitz, where the back half of this first issue is set.
The story, itself, is well-paced, starting off pensive and thoughtfully slow before sinking its teeth into the reader and promising to never let go. At times, this first issue hurts: at other times, it’s quite a peaceful read. All around, it’s a bit haunting: Geralt is an intensely relatable -and human- character, and it’s clear that that was purposely included into the first issue of this four-issue miniseries.
Curious readers who don’t know a lot about The Witcher franchise might be worried about missing something, but I can confirm that this story is incredibly accessible, and doesn’t require much background with the source materials. The story provides enough of a foundation so readers will never be lost, and honestly, what gaps there are can be filled in with imagination and subtext.
I, myself, write this as a fan who’s only experienced The Witcher as the 2019 Netflix adaptation. In fact, I find this a strength as this miniseries easily speaks to fans with more limited experience, but doesn’t coddle them. Readers will find that they don’t need to know everything about Geralt: basic knowledge from Netflix’s adaptation will more than prepare you to dive back in, and might make readers hungry for more of his world.
While the story itself is good, there’s so much more at play in this issue: namely, the lettering and the artwork itself. Letterer Steve Dutro skillfully shifts between sizes and fonts as the story ebbs and flows, fitting well with this story’s unknown, omnipotent narrator when their voice creeps in to transition the panels. Good lettering can really make or break a comic: safe to say that Dutro’s skills only serve to highlight the artistry on display here.
Additionally, the art for this initial issue is gorgeous, pairing deep, black shadows with a variety of shifting colors that reflect Geralt’s point of view as he treks across the Continent in search of purpose. Amad Mir’s linework is superb, with a somewhat sketchy vibe that looks polished but also shifts with the mood of the story. In night scenes, the sketchy aspect comes out a bit more, forming lowlights on the characters as firelight reflects off of them. It’s overall gorgeous and left me hungry for more of Mir’s work. It’s so lush and so, so perfect for this inaugural issue.
Hamidreza Sheykh renders colors in cool blues and ice-cold greys most of the time, with a stark, yellow-green for Geralt’s eyes. At impactful, specific moments, the colors turn to warm, earthy tones: most notably, when Geralt is at peace or attempting to relax. Combined with the deep, inky shadows, the world never stops feeling foreboding, even when it looks like maybe, Geralt is finding a different way. Truly, Amad Mir is certainly a skilled artist and Hamidreza Sheykh a skilled colorist: readers will instantly be enchanted by their combined skills, and will feel transported into Geralt’s world from the first panel.
The Witcher: Fading Memories is a lush start to a four-issue miniseries focused on Geralt in a world where monsters are almost gone. A beautifully illustrated and colored character study, this inaugural issue is an engrossing read that you’ll find yourself reluctant to put down. Sword and sorcery fans will find a solid story here, as will fans of The Witcher overall. Additionally, Witcher fans who are coming from the 2019 Netflix adaptation will still find themselves engrossed in Geralt’s world as he tries to figure out where his path is taking him, as well as how to fit into a seemingly hopeless world. Overall, this first issue is worth picking up, whether physically or digitally.
Age Rating: 15+
Released By: Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: November 25, 2020
Page Count: 32