May 27, 2024

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Comic Review: Die Volume 1

Five friends go back to a roleplaying world they never wanted to see again.

Kieron Gillen’s epic look at religion, mythology, and pop stardom The Wicked + The Divine finished up last year.  I greatly enjoyed most of that series from Image Comics.  So, what does someone like Gillen do for his next work?

That would be the new Image series Die, described by some as a sort of “Goth Jumanji”.  The first volume, subtitled Fantasy Heartbreaker, is out now, and maybe I can see how well it stands up.

In 1991, a teenager named Dominic, though everyone calls him “Ash,”went over to his best friend Sol’s place for their mutual birthday.  The pair are avid roleplayers, and along for a night with a game Sol made up are Ash’s kid sister Angela, Sol’s girlfriend Isabelle, and their mutual friends Matt and Chuck.  Each of the teens does character creation, and Sol hands each of them in turn a different die.  Sol himself gets a D20, but then something happens and all six disappear.

Two years later, five of them reappear.  Angela is missing an arm, but there’s no sign of Sol.  For the next 25 years, none of the group talk about what happened and their lives go in various directions.  None seem to be doing too well, particularly series narrator Ash.

Then Ash finds himself in possession of Sol’s D20.  It’s got some blood on it, but when he gathers the others together, they find themselves once again transported to the world of Die, a fantasy realm where Sol was left behind.  Each member of the group gains back the powers and weapons each had when they left, with Ash even transforming into a woman.  Now there’s a twist:  the Grandmaster they were battling before managed to keep Sol when they were last here.  They can’t leave the realm without everyone in the party wanting to leave, and Sol, well, he’s the new Grandmaster now, he’s still a member of the party, and he doesn’t want to leave.

There’s a lot to like about Gillen’s new series, particularly with Stephanie Hans’s moody art.  Gillen uses this volume, containing five issues, to establish the world and the characters.  Each member of the party has a title and specific powers with some nasty rules attached to them.  Matt, for example, can be unstoppable in a fight, but he has to be miserable to activate those skills.  Likewise, the world of Die seems to be similar to a standard fantasy world, only set in the middle of the first World War.  The story offers a number of nods to famous fantasy series, most of them obvious, while setting up the long term story.  There’s some mystery for good measure–why does Ash and only Ash change gender when they cross over?–and I think I’m going to be enjoying this one.

9.5 out of 10 temporary dogs.