June 28, 2020

Review: Die, Vol. 1: Fantasy Heartbreaker

Die, Vol. 1: Fantasy Heartbreaker Die, Vol. 1: Fantasy Heartbreaker by Kieron Gillen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked this, but it is dark. Both in subject matter and art. It's the story of six teenagers--Dominic, called Ash, his sister Angela, and their friends Isabelle, Chuck, Matthew and Solomon, shortened to Sol. On Sol and Ash's sixteenth birthday, they sit down to to navigate a brand-new role-playing game that Sol has created. They build their characters and receive their dice...er, "die"....roll them--and vanish. They reappear two years later, five of the original six, one with an arm missing, known as the "Stafford Six." When asked where they've been for the past two years, all Ash can say is, "I can't say."

The story picks up twenty-five years later, when Ash gets a mysterious package in the mail. Recognizing it for what it is, he gets all of his friends together, they open the package to find a single die inside (a magical D20), and just like that they're transported back to the grimdark fantasy world they were imprisoned in a quarter of a century earlier. And not in their own real-life bodies, but the bodies of their characters (which, in Ash's case, means a white-haired female).

(And I'm thinking, well, this is really a cliche. Why is Ash doing this? If he suspected what that package held, why didn't he just smash the thing with a hammer? Answer: because even after so many years, he's still crippled by guilt over leaving Sol behind. As it turns out, Sol is now the Grandmaster, who is going to force them to play the game through.)

This storyline is dark and the world is brutal, and the art reflects that. I have to say, however, that I'm sure this comic would appeal more to readers who are also gamers. I am not one. The writer is doing some interesting things with the world--it's sort of a subversion of, and a reaction to, Tolkien's Middle-earth, as is revealed in the extensive essays on the comic's creation at the back of the book. Still, this volume is pretty grim, ending on a cliffhanger, and I don't know if I'm invested enough to go forward with it.

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