Two simple words that, when strung together, became such an enticing hook that I simply had to brave a snowstorm to get the first issue of Die.
Kieron Gillen combines Dungeons and Dragons with trauma and somehow conjures a compelling first issue that is as devastatingly beautiful (thanks to artist Stephanie Hans) as it is searingly clever. Let’s break it down a few ways. First up, the characters themselves.
The core party is initially introduced when in their teens, and the reader has an instant connection to them. There’s the little sister, the smart outsider, the ex-girlfriend, the best friend, and the narrator. These are great character types to focus on a story centered on a role-playing game, as many of us gamers first started to experiment with the genre in high school. We can intimately identify with these characters, and how they choose their character type.
Next up is the game itself. Now, Gillen doesn’t explain the core set of rules for this particular game, and it’s because of that that I’m incredibly hooked. You see, he introduces us to the game created by Solomon (who is also the Game Manager aka Dungeon Master) with the handing out of dice. This is fascinating, because Solomon asks for character type and hands out one of the die to each player, and this is a standard set of die for RPGs – a four, a six, an eight, a ten, a twelve, and a twenty. I’m dying to see the purpose of each individual dice, and how they function together! Gillen says he’ll reveal the game rules later, and I personally cannot wait to actually try playing this with the rest of the Court of Nerds.
On to the art, which is masterfully done by Stephanie Hans. Her artwork is very clean with a simple palate while we are in the present outside of the game – the characters wear their experiences on their sleeves, as older, weary adults. The initial introduction is a warmer tone, which reflects the youthful enthusiasm of a party; Solomon created this game for Dominic, after all, and they’re debuting it with their closest friends.
When we finally get inside the game – which is worth the price of admission alone – the world is vibrant reds and blacks, powerful contrasting colors done gorgeously. The two-page splash that shows us what the protagonists look like while inside the game is magnificent, as they all seem to be registering their return on different levels. Honestly, Hans’ work is just on a different level here, as she has mastered the art of facial expressions and body language. If the story wasn’t as good as the artwork I’d still be 100% invested, but it is and I AM.
I really don’t want to dive in too deeply on the overall plot or the actual narrative in this issue, because I didn’t know anything about it going in and all the reveals packed so much more of a punch. Just know that it’s fucking fabulous, and if you’re remotely into fantasy, sci fi, role-playing games, or just a really goddamn well made comic, you need to pick this up.