A Song of Crows by Aleš Kot (writer), Piotr Kowalski (artist), and Brad Simpson (colourist) is the third graphic novel adapting the world of the video game Bloodborne, a horror action-RPG developed by FromSoftware. This is the first book in the series to feature a character from the video game as the main character. Eileen the Crow is a Hunter in Yharnam with a unique duty: hunting down other Hunters who have succumbed to the blood they imbibe and lost their minds. During the course of her duties she comes across a butchered Hunter whose remains are arranged to reflect a ritual she finds disturbingly reflective of a practice from her home in foreign parts. In search of the perpetrator, she embarks upon a mind-bending journey that has her confront the ghosts that haunt her past.
The creative team behind this series continued to impress me with this book, maintaining their more unconventional approach to creating spin-off media for a popular video game property. Especially with a character like Eileen the Crow it’s easy to imagine a more straightforward story about her pursuing and combating a worthy adversary for a few chapters, with action and gore aplenty to keep one entertained. On the surface, that is what this book is about, but Kot, Kowalski, and Simpson have managed to morph that into a nightmarishly introspective journey that I consider the be the weirdest they have produced yet (and I mean that quite positively).
When I say weird, I refer to the dreamlike quality of the narrative. The images are not abstract, for the most part, but the meaning behind everything that unfolds is unclear in a way that I found captivating. The story begins relatively mundane; Eileen performs her duties tending to the dead and investigating the death of the unnamed hunter, following up on leads while troubled by memories that the clues left behind are evoking. As she falls deeper down the proverbial rabbit hole, however, her experiences are intercut with images of her past and a tragic loss that she experienced. All the while she increasingly begins to question her place in time (𝒲𝒽𝑒𝓃 𝒶𝓂 𝐼?) and gradually starts to lose her grip on what is real and what isn’t.
The absence of complete context for a lot of these images, combined with Eileen’s increasing bewilderment, created a mildly disorienting reading experience I quite enjoyed. Bloodborne is well known for giving an obscured look into its own storytelling and lore in a way that enhances its Lovecraftian qualities, and as with its predecessors this book remains faithful to this approach. This reaches its highest point in the penultimate chapter where nary a word is written, presenting the reader with a collage of images as Eileen encounters something of another plane of existence.
Disorientation while reading notwithstanding, if one pays attention to both what is said and what the visuals are communicating during less abstract moments there is a relatively straightforward plot to follow that helps give the story shape. There is much left to interpretation too that some could easily write off as virtually meaningless, but I have been able to interpret a deeper meaning from what unfolds that has left me satisfied. A caveat I must bring up on the topic of confusion, however, is that this book is by and large the least accessible of all these books. There are images that will mean something to players of the game that the book gives zero context for. I give it a pass on this as this series is inherently niche, but it bears bringing up.
If you’ve been reading through the Bloodborne graphic novels and enjoying them, A Song of Crows shouldn’t disappoint. The story was disorienting, discomforting, and intriguing in all the right ways for me, giving the spotlight to one of my favourite side characters without dispelling some of her mystique by over-explaining her origins. The art continues to capture the beautiful bleakness of the world as well, with a number of two-page spreads that particularly stand out. Again, despite the fact it stands alone from the previous volumes, I would not recommend it for the unfamiliar though.
And never forget, 𝒸𝑜𝓃𝓈𝒸𝒾𝑜𝓊𝓈𝓃𝑒𝓈𝓈 𝒾𝓈 𝒶 𝓁𝒶𝓀𝑒.
My Rating: 4 out of 5