The Witcher Volume 1: House of Glass

Paul Tobin (writer), Joe Querio (artist), Carlos Badilla (colorist)
CD Projekt Red and Dark Horse Comics
September 23, 2014

I’m a pretty big fan of the monster hunter known as Geralt of Rivia, in both the original book series by Andrzej Sapkowski and the subsequent Witcher video games from CD Projekt Red, and I am eagerly looking forward to the pending Netflix series. Unfortunately, the trade paperback The Witcher Volume 1: House of Glass—a collection of issues one through five of the Dark Horse Witcher comic miniseries—doesn’t quite reach my expectations.

The story in The Witcher Volume 1: House of Glass follows Geralt finding a widowed hunter, Jakob, with whom he seeks friendly conversation and a swig of wine after a long, lonely journey. The hunter tells him the tragedy of his wife, who is now a murderous monster; she then lures the pair to the titular House of Glass. Geralt must solve the mystery of the cursed house and its mistress, or become their latest victim.

In the sketchbook notes at the back of the graphic novel, Dark Horse editor Daniel Chobin writes about paying homage to CD Projekt Red’s love of Mike Mignola’s (Hellboy) art, which even graces the cover of this trade paperback. Joe Querio’s artistic depictions of the monstrosities of Geralt’s world are striking and do bare some similarities to Mignola’s work. Querio sets a dark and ominous mood with dark, drooping lines that are somberly coloured by Badilla. Querio’s work stands out when dealing with the monstrous creature’s Geralt faces, but, well, Geralt’s face itself is a problem. Somehow, Geralt’s face, in particular, seems to be an afterthought, often drawn lost in shadows or not included at all. This is presumably meant for artistic effect, but the effect was lost on me. I want to see Geralt’s expressions, even and especially when he’s handing out sarcastic or witty comments. Though the character has a penchant for deadpan humour, the artistic choice to avoid facial expressions completely at times comes across poorly for me.

The Witcher Volume 1: House of Glass is fairly typical of Geralt’s smaller adventures within the video games and books he inhabits. It does not offer any significant plot development and is basically a sidequest that gives the reader a bit more monster lore, but provides very little insight into who the Witcher really is or what purpose he serves beyond hunting monsters. Perhaps a new reader, unfamiliar with the character, would take more away from this. For example, a new reader would learn that, despite being a monster hunter, Geralt does not kill monsters without giving them a fair chance, and recognizes that humans can be just as monstrous. For established fans, Geralt’s chaotic good alignment isn’t new information, so the book serves only to introduce a couple of new characters for Geralt to play off of with his dry wit. But, unlike Yennefer, Dandelion, and the other supporting characters in his universe, Jakob, his undead wife, and the others Geralt finds along the way are not influential enough to break through the White Wolf’s stoic demeanour. Although Paul Tobin does capture that dry sense of humour with ease,The Witcher Volume 1: House of Glass is not groundbreaking enough in either story or characters to be a must-read for Witcher fans.