Writer: Kieron Gillen
Art: Stephanie Hans
Format: Kindle Edition
Length: Vol.1, 184 pages; Vol.2, 168 pages
Die is a pitch-black fantasy where a group of forty-something adults have to deal with the returning, unearthly horror they only just survived as teenage role-players. If Kieron’s in a rush, he describes it as “Goth Jumanji”, but that’s only the tip of this obsidian iceberg.
I’ve seen this series described as a mixture of Dungeons & Dragons and Jumanji. The title refers to the rolling kind of die, a group of which are essential to the classic tabletop roleplaying game co-created by Gary Gygax and Dan Arneson back in the 1970s. Writer Kieron Gillen is a big fan and fills the back of each issue with his thoughts on D&D, his inspirations for Die, and even chronicles the development of a roleplaying game based on the world of the comic book.
In the first issue, we are introduced to a group of teenage friends getting ready to start a game of D&D. It’s a birthday party and one of the members has brought some special dice to use in the game. Fast forward two years and the group suddenly materialize in a forest near the birthday boy’s house, returned from some faraway place and now missing a member of their original party. For some reason, they are unable to speak about what happened to them. Intrigued yet?
I love the premise of the story and was looking forward to seeing where the creative team would take us. I think it was this premise that kept me reading monthly, along with the beautiful painted art by Stephanie Hans. Unfortunately, Die hasn’t lived up to its early promise for me. My main problem is with the characters. I haven’t found anyone to root for yet or really sympathize with. I realize that Gillen is writing a darker-themed story which explores loss, emotional pain, and regret. But I thought there would be more of a balance between the dark and the light. You need uplifting moments to break through the darkness, otherwise you just become stuck in a repeating cycle of gloom and despair.
My Summaries for each volume
Volume 1: Fantasy Heartbreaker (collects issues #1∼5): Solid enough to make me want to read the next arc. The premise is intriguing, and I like the world-building, but the characters aren’t really standing out yet. Add another star for the painted artwork by Stephanie Hans. But I must point out that Die is no bright and bubbly adventure. This book deals with loss and trauma which gives it a dark, mature atmosphere.
Volume 2: Split the Party (collects issues #6∼10): More focus on the characters in this second volume. None of them are really appealing to me at the moment, though. The literary Bronte family make an appearance in the narrative suggesting they may have had something to do with the creation of the fantasy world. It continues on the path of what’s feeling more like despair than a moving tragedy. The art is still gorgeous but I’m not sure if I’ll continue with the series from here.
Thanks for reading!