With The Witcher: Volume 2 we have a contained and complete story separate from volume 1; the previous book does not need to be read first in order to enjoy Fox Children. Gamers looking to expand the world beyond The Wild Hunt and Assassins of Kings will find familiar territory and enjoy the story. Those new to the world of the Witcher can also begin with Fox Children since it is a standalone and can serve as a decent introduction to the character. Both the game designer and writer Tobin collaborated and note that the game has many elements drawn from comic/graphic novel conventions and therefore this is a very accessible piece appealing to a wide audience.
Story: The Witcher joins with a dwarf Adaggio to protect a ship’s crew attempting to rescue a wealthy Elf’s kidnapped daughter. But the task is not so easily accomplished and it will take all of the Witcher’s talents and skills in order to survive the illusions and traps set by a vengeful vulpess.
The story is very straightforward but definitely captures the dialogue and personalities from the games (more so than the novels, in which the speech patterns (and often humor) are less defined). Although the author does attempt to bring in some moral complexities, the simplistic nature of the story does result in a pat solution/ending. Perhaps that was the most disappointing aspect of Fox Children since so many of the quests/plots in Witcher involve ambivalence and nuance. There’s a lot of padding in the middle that devolved to ‘fight monster x then fight monster y’ that perhaps pandered a bit too much to the gamers without bringing more to the storyline.
The art is serviceable and the characters look the part. There were some really ugly drawings in there, however, where faces were distorted or simply colored in without any features. The Witcher, especially, ended up being very nebulously defined, often viewed either extreme close up (e.g., cat-like eyeballs) or long shot pullbacks where he’s pretty much a lump with a white ponytail. Especially those who recently played the game and have the incredible animation still in their memory might be a bit disappointed as I was by the illustration work on the Witcher himself. That said, the rest of the art was solid and told the story well.
While this is a newbie-friendly self contained story, I did find it a bit bloated and lacking the complexity of a Witcher game subplot. Certainly, the author captured the curt, ‘dropped article’ dialogue and grounded logic/wisdom of Geralt. As well, the misogynistic “women are insane and especially the ones I’m involved with” is intact here. The author and illustrator know the Witch lore, characters, novels, and games well and have done a decent job of staying true to their source material. And yet, the story does exactly what the Witcher games did not: it gives a fairly straightforward, ‘kill the monsters’ quest with a happy ending. That’s a shame since the Witcher games and novels are about not having pat answers to life’s difficulties thrown at Geralt – whose victories are Pyrrhic more often than not.
In all, I am glad I bought it. The physical, soft cover book is beautifully presented and includes artwork from the game as well as covers from the comics. The printing is crisp and the colors rich. But yes, I did hope for more.