The Witcher: Fading Memories #1 opens with a narration over Geralt of Rivia’s actions as he moves through a silent forest of tall, dark trees. The slanted font implies a handwritten letter that reflects a somber tone, one that is understandable for a Witcher for whom work is scarce, calling into question everything he was born and raised to be. He jumps at monsters in the forest, only to find that they are not monsters at all. What purpose does a monster hunter serve when there are no monsters left to hunt?
The Witcher: Fading Memories #1
Evan Cagle (cover artist), Steve Dutro (letters), Amad Mir (artist), Hamidreza Sheykh (colourist), Bartosz Stybor (writer), Jeremy Wilson (variant cover artist)
Dark Horse Publishing/CD Projekt Red
November 25, 2020
Many times in Witcher stories, we learn soon enough that it is us humans who are the real monsters. The Witcher: Fading Memories #1 doesn’t lose that theme here, but this time, it is not the focus, as the scrawled words continue to follow Geralt in his search for work. At a village pub, he turns down a wager to win a fight against the local strong guy — he’s not lost all his dignity just yet — but before he can leave, he’s approached by a man with a very different job offer: good, honest work on the seas, helping him to catch fish.
The fisherman, Geralt soon learns, has lost most of his fingers because of the actions of a monstrous human and just wants to feel useful again, though he needs help to do so. For a gruff loner, The Witcher stories also tend to show us Geralt unintentionally befriending people who help him hold on to that human connection he pretends he doesn’t need. The friend here plays a similar role, and the scenes where they are together are coloured notably brighter than the rest of the imagery, which leans heavily into swampy browns, greens, blues, and grays. There is a lot of black throughout, however. Artist Amid Mir is generous with it, from fully blackened backgrounds to lighter cross-hatching, and everything in between. Mir’s style lends itself well to the somber tone of the issue.
Fortunately for Geralt, it turns out all the monsters aren’t dead, and he is summoned to a nearby village to deal with a plague of ghoulish creatures. As with many professionals, his skills are taken for granted as is his advice, which leaves room for his adventure to continue despite the losses he faces along the way.
I was surprised by the path this first issue takes. Twists in the outcome of a story about a monster hunter seeking employment are to be expected, but I wasn’t expecting a twist so poignant and heartbreaking, leaving me genuinely curious to see how the events here affect Geralt as the story plays on.