‘The Witcher Volume 3: Curse of Crows’ - Advance Trade Paperback Review

The five issue series The Witcher: Curse of Crows has been collected into a trade paperback, marking the third volume of Geralt of Rivia stories from Dark Horse and continuing the publisher’s collaboration with CD Projekt RED with stories that tie-in with the hugely popular video games. For fans who have not been sated by The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, the comic book series further explores Geralt’s fantastical world: a world originally created by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski through a series of novels in the mid-1990s that became available to Western readers with English translations beginning with The Last Wish in 2007.

Will Eisner Award-winning writer and Witcher fan Paul Tobin (Planets vs. Zombies) is back with a wonderfully interwoven tale that follows witchers Geralt and his adopted daughter Ciri (individuals with supernatural abilities who hunt monsters) as they hunt for a striga – a cursed woman who has been transformed into a hideous creature. Along the way, fans will quickly recognize referenced geographies such as Novigrad, Vizma, and Kovir, as well as familiar characters that either join the story (Yennifer and the troll, Rockstride) or are mentioned (the beloved bard, Dandelion). With story collaborators Borys Pugacz-Muraszkiewicz and Karolina Stachyra and dialogue by Travis Currit, the team has penned the most engaging and riveting story arc to date that explore themes of war, poverty, betrayal, and parenthood. The writing team also intertwines a “day in the life of” Geralt and Ciri as they weigh the worth of each contract presented to them, adding a bit of dry wit to counterbalance the serious themes. Noteworthy is the even distribution of the plot over the five issues, resulting in a pacing that keeps the attention of the reader, as well as building bridges between each issue that tantalize the reader to pick up the next issue.

The visual component of this volume is expertly handled by visual teams that includes art by Piotr Kowalski, colors by Brad Simpson, cover art and chapter breaks by Grzesiek Przybyś, and lettering by Nate Piekos of Blambot. Kowalski has well illustrated a story that is told in present time, as well as through a number of flashbacks. Hence, he uses heavier, more defined line work to denote the present passage of time versus thinner lines to convey past events. His layouts are concise and efficient, although there could have been perhaps a little more panel deviation in order to emphasize particularly poignant action moments. Simpson complements Kowalski’s illustrations by his color palette choices – brighter for present time, muted earthy tones for flashback scenes – and through his shading techniques. Piekos' lettering rounds out each page. His choice of fonts are concise and easy to read; the changling and striga’s accompanying fonts for their dialogue are excellent, extending the personality of their respective monster. Sound effects, narrative boxes, and speech balloons are all positioned well in each panel, and thereby work with the reader’s eye rather than unnecessarily drawing away and/or distracting from the story being told. Lastly, Przybyś creates beautiful cover and chapter break art that again adds to the storytelling experience of the volume.

All sequential art elements are brought expertly together in this trade paperback like a well-oiled silver sword waiting to whisper and hum to those ready to listen. Fans of the franchise will be captivated by this volume that follows The Witcher Volume 1 and The Witcher Fox Children Volume 2, also from Dark Horse. While familiarity with the universe enriches the reading enjoyment, it is not required for new readers (See the Dark Horse The Witcher sampler for an introduction, but consider reading Sapkowski’s novels and/or playing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt game for a fuller immersive experience.) who would like to dip into Geralt’s world. Both groups of readers will not be disappointed.

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