Bloodborne: A Song of Crows is the third volume in the Bloodborne series from Titan Comics. It comes from the creative team of writer Aleš Kot, artist Piotr Kowalski, colorist Brad Simpson, and letterer Aditya Bidikar. The story follows Eileen the Crow, known in the video game as a “hunter of hunters”. Here Eileen is a woman seemingly trapped in the confines of her own mind. She jumps from time period to time period, hardly able to tell “when” she is.
At first, we see her walking through the metal gates of a large building, her arm dripping blood. Then the perspective quickly changes, she is filling in a mass grave. It shifts again, and the plot itself seems to take shape. Eileen has come upon the corpse of a murdered hunter in a cemetery. His organs splayed across the tombstones and his head resting on the cobblestone ground. As she begins the process of tracking whoever could do something so hideous, she begins to remember as flashes of her life as a child and the losses she suffered buffet the reader.
She continues her search and ruminates on how the guilt of this loss follows her and colors her perception of time. Something about the city of Yharnam, where she resides, has taken hold of her and is affecting her sanity. As the mystery of the murdered hunter unfurls and the secrets of Eileen’s past are revealed the reader is tasked with piecing the greater story together. For time, as Eileen puts it, has no shape and it is we who put a shape to time.
I have reviewed Bloodborne comics before, and am familiar with Kot’s work with the series. That said, I found this graphic novel to be remarkably difficult to review. The writing is fascinating, and the use of stream-of-consciousness to symbolize Eileen’s mental state is brilliant. But the narrative structure is so difficult to follow that I found myself rereading entire portions of the story just to make sense of it. It was certainly enjoyable, and the central mysteries were absolutely compelling. But that doesn’t diminish the barrier or ease the access to either.
Despite being the third volume in the Bloodborne comic series, this is a standalone story and it felt more like experience with the video game was necessary than either of the past two. Eileen is never named in the pages of the book, so a new reader would need previous knowledge to make sense of that. Certain characters and events in the book also hold greater meaning to those who are familiar with the game. This is not inherently bad but can be an additional barrier to the uninitiated.
In spite of this, it was an enjoyable read. Following the separate timelines through multiple readings was enlightening and interesting. The characterization is tragic but fascinating, and it truly captures the tone of the game.
Piotr Kowalski’s art, on the other hand, is uncomplicated in its brilliance. Whether he is drawing sweeping vistas, or intimate close up’s of the masked visage of Eileen, it is all beautiful. So much of the art in this book seems fully informed by its namesake video game. From a tiny bell around Eileen’s neck to the locations and creatures. He clearly understands the source material’s aesthetic wonderfully. The colors from Brad Simpson lend both an ethereal and grounded quality to the art, which feeds perfectly into the overarching narrative.
The letters from Aditya Bidikar are a strong point in this series. Bidikar is well known for his lettering having the appearance of being handwritten. As a result, every word thought or uttered by Eileen seems as though it comes directly from a personal diary entry. For a book that dives as deeply into the protagonist’s psyche, this style is a perfect fit. Every panel with her letters is enhanced by this and it strengthens the title greatly.
Despite my qualms with the storytelling, I find myself recommending this trade paperback highly. Comics are unique because of the visual aspect to the storytelling, and the visuals in this are superb. Kot’s script is strong, even if the story itself can be difficult to follow. But it’s the work of Kowalski, Simpson, and Bidikar that make it great. If you’re a fan of Bloodborne this should already have been on your list. If you’re a neophyte, then get it for the art and enjoy solving the mystery as well.
Bloodborne: A Song of Crows trade paperback will be available in comic stores everywhere on August 20th, 2019
Rating: 4.5/5 Sights, seen without eyes