Solomon made a game, but he never made it out. Now, he’s dragging his friends back in with him… Your Major Spoilers review of Die #2 awaits!
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Stephanie Hans
Designer: Rian Hughes
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Editor: Chrissy Williams
Publisher: Image Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: January 9, 2019
Previously in Die: In 1991, six teenagers disappeared into a fantasy role-playing game. Only five made it out.
In 2018, five adults are dragged back to discover the sixth still wants them to play…
“THE WORLD TAUGHT US DIFFERENT STORIES.”
We open seconds after last issue ended, with the gaming party finally reassembled by Solomon, who was left behind in the real of Die thirty years before. Each of them has been transformed once more into their characters (the Grief Knight, the Neo, the Dictator, the Godbinder and the Fool) and Sol himself has taken on the mantel of Grandmaster, the creature that originally captured them all. He is so happy to have his friends together, only to have them beg him to let them go. Real life, children, jobs and families await, but he has spent decades in the realm of fantasy, and he has no concept of any of those adult responsibilities. He disappears and the first adventure hook arrives in the form of the Queen of Faerie, bearing the face of the senior girl Solomon had a crush on years before. Each of the characters goes into action (and it’s not only ingenious use of exposition, but some clever game mechanics as well) and we find out what they can do. Their own past decisions immediately start coming back to haunt them, and the return of a knight called Lane brings that all into terrible focus. As the issue ends, they have all agreed to play the game and try to get home by crossing a war zone, on foot.
AN INSPIRED TAKE
There’s a lot to love in these pages, but perhaps the best part for me is that the archetypes are familiar, but this isn’t a story about D&D or Pathfinder or GURPS. It is its own thing, with its own logic and rules, and the balance of characters is remarkable. Having one of the trapped individuals actually be the game-master (or dictator, whichever) adds another wrinkle and makes it one of the only stories that manages to use RPG rules and make them work in a comic book story. The horrifying consequences of their actions are shown when Lane returns as a shambling pile of rotting flesh, bound by Ash’s powers to wait for her return. The art is highly stylized, reminding me of the painted covers of the ancient D&D modules of my youth, and my only real complaint comes in the fact that occasionally that stylization makes it difficult to follow. The coloring helps greatly, leaning heavily on red and black for contrast and a sense of unease. I found myself drawn into this story immediately, even having missing number one, but Die #2 quickly brought me up to speed and sold me on the strength of this concept and the abilities of the creative team.
BOTTOM LINE: A REALLY GOOD STORY APPROXIMATING A REALLY GOOD GAMING SESSION
In short, Die #2 is an expertly crafted melding of the continuing narrative necessary for comic storytelling with character moments and decisions that emulate the moments necessary to make a successful RPG session, earning 4.5 out of 5 stars overall. For a book whose inspiration is “Whatever happened to those poor kids trapped in the other world in the ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ cartoon?”, it plumbs some serious emotion, drama and adult fears, all the while keeping readers engrossed in the story.
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Clever world-building and game mechanics are folded into that rarest of beasts: A story that balances RPG and comic book elements perfectly.