The Wicked + The Divine writer Kieron Gillen teams up with artist supernova Stephanie Hans (WicDiv, Journey Into Mystery) for her first ongoing comic. 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.
Six kids find themselves magically transported into a D&D-type board game. Two years pass - and only five kids return to the real world. Twenty-five years later, the five are transported back into the game only to find their missing sixth friend has become the evil grandmaster of the fantasy world - and, this time, they must FINISH THE GAME! Which means, uh… they have tea and cakes and sing lovely songs about fish fingers…? I think it’s meant to be menacing or something.
So: Die is basically dark Jumanji if the game was just D&D and mega-boring. Which could be a fun read with the right treatment but unfortunately Kieron Gillen’s ain’t it.
The characters are a grim and dull lot. The world of the game is generic and depressing, which, coupled with the depressed characters, makes things very jolly indeed. There’s hardly any story and what little there is incorporates some of the worst aspects of fantasy storytelling: endless walking and talking in pubs with wankerous bloviating dwarves. The tedium is broken up with the occasional fight with orcs, dragons, etc. which our heroes effortlessly get through. Oh the excitement… zzz…
Stephanie Hans’ painted art is really beautiful though and her character designs were interesting. The Tolkien cameo was cute, particularly the eagle wink, and fitted in well with the WW1 setting.
It’s not much though and doesn’t make me want to hang around to find out the whys and wherefores of the tale. Die, Volume 1: Fantasy Heartbreaker is just another dreary Kieron Gillen book in a long line of them!
Everyone* who has ever played a fantasy role-playing game (or, for that matter, first encountered fantasy literature as an impressionable young child) has wondered what it would be like, if not devoutly wished, to be transported to the setting of that game.
Not everyone, however, has put the same degree of thought into it that Gillen has in crafting this very dark vision of what would happen if a game master brought his vision to life for his players with some very real—and deadly—consequences.
As much fun as the book is—and it IS fun, and well worth a read for fantasy fans and gamers in particular (none of whom will be surprised by a certain real-life fantasy lit titan ghosting through the pages of the book)—even more fun is the after matter, in which Gillen painstakingly details not only the creation of his world, but the source material that informed it, and analyzes numerous archetypal characters in order to deconstruct them.
That said, if you don’t nerd out about Derrida-esque examinations of bardic charisma or god-driven magic, you’ll probably want to skip that part and stick to the book itself. (For the seven people out there who DO, dive in.)
*One time, and one time only, have I ever felt that desire diminish, and it was not, surprisingly, when my ranger was swiftly dismembered by the Tarrasque. No, it was when my doughty if uncouth dwarven warrior Dargon Axewielder, who had bravely killed a brontosaurus one time and harvested its meat to feed his fellow adventurers, indicated, as the brave band sat fireside at the end of the day, that he “was going to roast [his] balls.” Any sensible DM would have known Dargon was referring to the testicles of the dinosaur, Dargon having waxed eloquent at great length (and, perhaps, to the annoyance of the other members of his party) about the salty tang of bronto balls earlier that day. The DM of this session being completely insensible, however**, assumed Dargon was referring to his own dwarven giggleberries and proceeded to declare, with an overtly showy roll of the dice, that Dargon suffered 17 damage.
**This same DM once indicated a skeletal warrior was going to drink a healing potion, an inexplicable move that I countered, as any right-thinking adventurer would, with a joke: “A skeleton walks into a bar and orders a beer and a mop…HOW IS A SKELETON GOING TO BENEFIT FROM A HEALING POTION?!” After some huffy hemming and hawing, said DM finally agreed with my point, showing himself at least grudgingly capable of acting logically.
I feel like Gillen has dropped the ball here. Die has a brilliantly simple premise that mixes Jumanji, IT and Lord of the Rings. With Gillen's usual writing style, it should have been a fun ride with jaw-dropping twists, sharp snappy dialogue and fantastic characters. Instead, this series has been nothing but a depressing, over-narrated slog. There are too many characters and none of them are likeable or interesting. The story is too complicated, and the world-building is so over-engineered and overthought that it really gets in the way of the actual story. With each issue Die left me more and more confused, frustrated and sad, and that's not what I'm used to expect from Kieron Gillen comics — the guy is one of my favourite writers, after all. The only good thing to come out of Gillen's convoluted world-building here is seeing it realised on page by Stephanie Hans, who is absolutely amazing on this book. It's a shame the story is not on par with the art, and it's even more of a shame that I have to say this about a Kieron Gillen comic.
So let me say I never played DnD and never really wanted to. It's just not my thing. This series is basically if DnD became a reality and you had to survive it.
So years ago a bunch of kids get sucked into this DnD world. Once there horrible things had happen and they come back to the real world a few years later. Then a time skip happens, they all become adults, and get sucked back into the game. The tale begins to flip flop from the past, the present, and a little in between.
Nothing is interesting though. Everything is explained to you but none of it is remotely fun. The dower storytelling makes this a bore, with dread all around but none of it at all interesting. The fights are kind of cool thanks to the art, but even the art is filled with depression. Yes...the art feels depressing.
So yeah...I was bored and had no urge to read this past issue 5. This is a mega-pass for me.
2022 reread: As predicted, I have a much better grasp of this on the reread.
Thoughts as I go. - Stephanie Hans's artwork still blows me away. The lighting in that opening flashback sequence. The splash page when they all come back into the game. The individual issue covers. Izzy's gods. The overall acrylic paint vibe. Whatever program she uses, I'm in love. - I shouldn't love Chuck this much but I do. When I read him I hear Ryan Reynolds. - Gods above and below, how did I forget about issue #3? Chills. Favorite. - I could never play a Grief Knight. I could, but I'd end up in a hella dark place and it would NOT be easy to come back from that. - I live for Case.
I'll come down on the side of this being a very impressive artistic achievement reflecting the reality of being a sometimes depressive middle-aged dude who last played RPGs in the early 90s...since I literally AM a sometimes depressive middle-aged dude who last played RPGs in the early 90s. Not that I'm nostalgic for those deeply awkward days, like some kind of nerdier Gary from The World's End...
I get why some wouldn't care for the moroseness of the narrator or the uncomfortable honesty related to some of the more hurtful and regrettable aspects of experiencing adolescence during that particular era but it really spoke to me (despite the fact I'm Canadian and not English). I really want to see if the series can continue at such an imaginative and artistically excellent clip for vol. 2, which I will most definitely be reading.
Plus, for fans of The Professor, seeing this sort of thing can be incredibly moving: ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>
In Die, six teens enter a fantasy role-playing game, disappearing from the mundane world for two years. When they reappear, they are missing one of their members and carrying scars, both physical and emotional, from their ordeal.
Fast forward twenty five years, and a blood stained die shows up on someone's birthday, mirroring the date when they last entered the game. The group has to face the fantasy world that has given them nightmares for decades in order to put the past to rest. But some things are easier said than done.
Readers of this series seem heavily divided on its quality. I thought it was brilliant.
This isn't because of the fantasy elements which, as many have noted, rely heavily on tropes and the established world building of touchstone series like The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia.
What I loved was the character development and its relatability for aging gamers.
The author shares a series of essays in the back of the graphic novel about the development of the story and characters as well as their associations with classic rpgs. He nails the reasons why I loved the book so much:
"... the simple idea of six forty-something adults contrasting their teenage fantasies with the realities of where their lives ended up. It's a pure midlife crisis scream of a book. And the bit that got me? The idea that maybe part of me did disappear into a fantasy world at the age of sixteen and never came out."
In the hero's journey, we venture forth into trials and return changed but bearing gifts from the experiences we went through. That format- there and back again- seems so clear cut and simple in many of the "through the looking glass" fantasy stories.
It is not so simple in this one.
In Fantasy Heartbreaker, the journey isn't finished when the characters return to where they started and they aren't bearing gifts, but a curse. It is only through the natural passage of time and the development of the adolescent into the adult, that the heroes in this story can finish their journey or, unbeknownst to them, begin an entirely new one.
This delayed emotional development speaks to any manner of gamers, both video or tabletop, who may find themselves, for a variety of reasons, gaming with a dysfunctional group of people over and over again each week. Perhaps this is because there are only a few people in their lives who love to game as much as they do.
For whatever reason, from the outside, such intense and conflict-prone relationships can seem confusing at best or borderline abusive at worst. But from inside the group itself, the bonds created through the traversing of realms of the imagination and overcoming obstacles as a team are real and important.
The members of the group form a family of sorts- one that they chose rather than one they were born with. It can be beautiful but bewildering. Something that one has to experience to truly understand.
Sort of like visiting a different world, and never really coming home again.
In addition to the peek into gamer culture, the artwork in Fantasy Heartbreaker is gorgeous, one of the most beautiful I've ever seen in a comic.
Highly recommended for readers, and gamers, who like fantasy graphic novels.
Alright guys I hate saying it but I don’t like that there are SO many comics that a bunch of people love that I just don’t get why... Seriously, why do I have to miss the fun?
What’s it about? Basically there’s this group of teenagers who had a role-playing game party with all kinds of special crazy shit with their characters and special die. The thing is they went missing the same day because they were transported into the game’s fantasy world but returned 2 years later except for one. 25 years later they end up getting the blood covered pair of dice that the one who never came home had so it’s time to go back to the fantasy world.
Pros: The artwork is beautiful. Seriously the art is stunning and really puts readers into the story’s atmosphere.
There are a few cool action scenes. This book is not too predictable. Some interesting twisty stuff. THERE’S A PUPPER! I love puppers so much they’re so good and cute, they’re much better than people and my favorite word is either “dog” or “puppy”. Dogs are my favorite animals so yeah I was happy to see such a cute and happy dog in this comic. There’s a particularly cool scene with a rotting corpse that won’t die. Really twisted but cool shit.
Cons: The story. The idea is kinda cool but I don’t like the execution. It’s kinda confusing at times and then there’s some other shit that I’m about to get to that messed with my enjoyment a lot. The characters are not interesting. I was meh about most of them and disliked the others. There’s a lot of boring stuff. Maybe it’s because I was expecting it to mostly be an exciting fantasy, not a characters go on and on about their problems fantasy but yeah... The storytelling itself is kinda... cheesy maybe? It just seemed like it tried too hard to sound epic but doesn’t. A lot of this book is just sad. Like I understand wanting to add some depth and emotion to your art but this is just fucking sad. Very minor but it is disappointing how there was one character who was independent and decided that she didn’t need kids which was in a way a good breath of fresh air that a character expressed that point of view... Really? The ending. I didn’t like this volume’s kinda stupid ending.
Overall: This book isn’t terrible, there’s some things that I like. Unfortunately, there’s more I dislike making my personal experience not so good. If other people like this (which seems to be the case with most fans of fantasy comic books) that’s wonderful, good for them but I don’t quite get the hype for this comic. Frankly, while the artwork is certainly pretty awesome, it’s unpredictable and has a cool dog those things don’t make up for uninteresting characters, a messy story, cheesy narrative, boring stuff and honestly depressing tone that doesn’t even really do anything but make this an unenjoyable book for me. I don’t like it.
I was all ready to love this, but between the atrocious visual storytelling of Stephanie Hans and the waaaaay too Inside Baseball RPG references, I could not wait for it to end. I've never played D & D, so I'm clearly not the target audience. There were some interesting aspects of the story, and I kinda-sorta closed the book wondering where things will go in the next volume, but I doubt I'll be back. This one was just too much of a struggle for me.
The worldbuilding's already so rich but still has too many immersion of classic fantasy stories like LOTR and Oz. It is tiring. I don't feel like I am getting any benefit from their usage. I just rolled my eyes and prayed this got over soon. Too bad, actually, since the 'Gothic Jumanji' stuff was interesting at first, and those art work was pretty dope.
PS: Now I really miss (learning) D&D. Covid, can you just finish already.
Pretty, relatable, well-worn paths with a bit more angst.
CONTENT WARNINGS (just a list of topics):
Things to love:
-The art. Really, just beautiful.
-The archetypes. A really cool mash up of genres and a nice homage to the idiosyncracies of homebrew games.
-The mix of realism and fantasy. LitRPG often lingers on one aspect or the other. This was a nice blend.
-The gothiness. 90s grunge goth is my jam! Children dressing in 90s couture, this is the part you should emulate, not the unfortunately high cuts and over saturated colors.
-The layout. Okay, love might be a strong word, but I sometimes find that it's hard to follow graphic novels, but the layout makes complete intuitive sense for left-right, top-bottom readers.
Things that I didn't love:
-Rushed. The pacing is pretty well off track here for me. There was no room for realities to breathe and become all-encompassing. The world didn't come alive, the trauma didn't resound, and the character depth felt suface-level even though I could tell that below the water their little legs were churning.
-Been there, done that. The notes at the back say that the creators tried to come at this "sideways" but uh...it feels more like they just gave the old vehicle a new flashy paint job.
I liked it, but it didn't grab me like others of its ilk have. It really needed to pump the brakes on the arc to build some depth.
D&D meet's Jumanji! So I've always been a big fan of Kieron Gillen and his Wicked & The Divine series, which just wrapped up its run. So I was interested to see what he would do with this series, so I bought this volume on a whim and I did not regret it! Die tells the story of 6 teenagers who one day while playing a D&D like the game got sucked into a fantasy world, only to finally come back to the real world 2 years later. Now as adults there back in the fantasy world, looking for a way out!
While I never played D&D myself, I played plenty of choose your own adventure games and RPG games are my favourite video game genre. This book is a love letter to all of that with its world and characters. The book even makes references to both Lord of the Rings and the hobbit which is always appreciated. The artwork is amazing as Stephanie Hans really shines here with her tarot card like visuals. It reminded me of the Tarot card portraits for your companions in Dragon Age: Inquisition, with this very colourful but otherworldly feel. Kieron Gillen is lucky to be always paired up with good artists as he had Jamie Mckelvie with the Wicked & The Divine and now Stephanie Hans on this. I was seriously gushing at every page turn at how beautiful it all looked!
But enough with me fanboying about the art. The story is typical if you've seen any of the Jumanji movies, especially the recent ones. I love the lore though as each of the main characters plays a class like in a role-playing game, with one being able to control peoples emotions and another controlling the power of the gods in exchange for favours which is so cool! Aside from that, I would like to see more character development, as some get more attention than others, which I'm sure will happen more as this series goes on. But overall, I was a big fan of this one and I can recommend it to gamers or D&D role players.
*edit* I re-read this 2/10/2021 and didn’t quite like it as much. Bringing it down to just 3 stars even.
3.5 stars. Some kids get together to play some D&D type of game and then poof, they disappear for two years. When they return, one of them is missing an arm and one of them doesn’t come back. As the next 25 years pass, they refuse to talk about it. Then due to certain events, they are all warped back to where they were lost for two years. Gillen sets up a really intriguing premise and I was on board for the ride.
As the story rolled along, I began to think, great concept but it’s not being executed that well. Kept feeling like something was missing and/or the story wasn’t flowing smoothly. It moved kind of abruptly between story beats. By the next to the last issue it started to flow better and I was getting sucked back in. Then the last issue hit and how that went down and ended got me wanting to read the next volume. Pretty solid book. Oh, also Stephanie Hans kills it with the painted style artwork.
Urval jsem si z toho čůro. Na tuhle sérii jsem se těšil hodně dlouho a příjemně mě překvapilo, že můj hype zvládla nejenom naplnit, ale i překonat. Gillen napsal o dost temnější verzi Jumanji pro fanoušky Dungeons & Dragons, aniž by psal čistě jenom další D&D komiks. Vykreslil tu hodně zajímavý svět, vyrobil vlastní povolání pro hrdiny, obsadil do hlavních rolí postavy, které nejsou jenom dvourozměrné parodie a protáhne vás drsným světem, kde míchá dohromady všemožné inspirace, ať už z reálné historie nebo pop kultury. Jak mi ze záčatku přišla kresba, že si budu muset těžce zvykat, tak stačil přesun hrdinů do samotné hry a neměnil bych. Gillenovy nápady tu vykresluje parádně a ladění do tmavějších odstínů je pro tento komiks vážně potřeba. Jsem neskutečně rád, že s tímhle kouskem nás čekají další díly, protože tohle je svět do kterého se chci rozhodně ještě vrátit. Byť radši jenom na papíře.
Mohlo by se vám líbit, pokud: - jste strávili v dětství nějaký ten čas hraním Dračího doupěte anebo D&D - chcete vidět, jak by to dopadlo, kdyby se hry ujal Pán jeskyně s hodně temnou fantazií
Spíš vás zklame, pokud: - jdou veškeré hry na hrdiny naprosto mimo vás - nemáte žádnou fantazii a nechcete závistivě sledovat někoho jiného, jak před vámi předvádí tu svou
Die is a fantasy with a standard theme: RPG players get sucked into their fantasy world. It's good, in large part because it twists the genre just a bit, with our players returning to their fantasy realm in their adult lives, twenty years after they escaped. And it's got fantasic art. But we've seen the core idea before, often to good effect in stories like The Guardians of The Flame, The Realm, and the D&D cartoon. For that matter, the idea itself is a twist on an older fantasy trope going back to Narnia and Oz.
But what makes Die truly great may only be perceptible to actual RPG players themselves, because it's obvious that Kieron Gillen is one of their number. Die references, twists, and ultimately deconstructs any number of roleplaying tropes, from the whole idea of a Fantasy Heartbreaker (as referenced in this title) to railroading GMs. And it does so with a light touch, so that (I think) non-RPGers will still enjoy the book, even if they don't understand the deeper level of the book.
I've always loved this genre, especially when it's given a realistic twist, with The Guardians of the Flame and The Realm being favorites as a result. This deftly rediscovers their strengths, with a deeper understanding of RPGs, and better, modern writing.
The Wicked and the Divine is my favorite comic series of all time, so I figured I'd enjoy this, but I never expected to love it as much as I did!
This was honestly freaking fantastic! This is like a love child between D&D styled tabletop games and Jumanji, and it's honestly as brilliant as it sounds.
If you're someone who enjoys RPGs and if you generally love stuff that subverts common Fantasy tropes, while it also at the same time manages to celebrate them - this is the comic for you. The world is really unique and inventive, but it's also quite nostalgic and familiar if you are someone who likes RPGs and Fantasy games in general. I really love that Gillen took familiar tropes and tabletop RPG elements and then gave them a really interesting twist.
The art is also really beautiful and ethereal, while also being really dark and dramatic, which fits this story really well. It's GREAT.
I cannot wait to see where the series goes from here, because the first volume was fantastic. Highly recommend this one!
I enjoy Kieron Gillen'S writing style. Some things were a miss for me but more things that I've read were really good and I consider myself his fan. Stephanie Hans was a new face for me and art-wise this is a really stylised artist who knows how to make an impact.
First two issues were wonderful. The third was interesting. The fourth was interesting more and the fifth was home run. Gillen crafted here a really compelling story with overlapping elements that are not visible at first glance. Elements from D&D have a brutally beautiful spin on them (Grieff Knight), characters act reasonably (parents act as parents) and maniacs seem to flourish where there is more madness.
Art helps this book to stand out. Every page is like a painting and there would not be so good comic without Han's art. Her faces are sometimes a little bit off but that is nitpicking. Colouring her art with red, black and grey makes a stunning visual pallet, one that hits in the eyes and sticks.
One of the strengths of Gillen is that he is a writer that doesn't fear writing LGBT+ characters like people and he doesn't write then just for politics. It's this duh example, but he knows how to represent and not to be preachy and pretentious. His characters are alive and here Ash is the perfect example.
If you like fantasy, go read this. You won't be disappointed.
Právě jsem dočetl něco, na co nejsem u komiksů, které běžné čtu, zvyklý.
Když už jsem se rozhodl přečíst něco jiného ne�� Marvel a DC, dlouho jsem hledal co to bude. Chtěl jsem něco nového, něco nestandardního a zajímavě nakresleného. Proto je DIE jasná volba (musím se přiznat, že mě k tomu hodně nahypovany KN a K.Kvíz) plus ještě ty boží covery.
Co se týče přilběhu, tak do toho jsem byl opravdu vytáhnout hned od začátku. Každá postava je dobře napsaná a interakce mezi nimi jsou opravdu hodně dobré. Prakticky po každém issue jsem byl nahypovaný na další. I vedlejší postavy se mi moc líbily, třeba trpaslíci s kterými bych šel klidně Mana jedno. Příjde mi, že záporak zde vlastně není, nebo já ho jako zaporaka nevnímám.
Sečteno podtrženo: 5* tomu dávám taky proto, že je to můj první komiks mimo Marvel a DC, bohužel tomu aktuální svatá dvojice nemá čím šlapat na paty. Kresba je hodně zajímavá a okouzlující. Příběh je vztahující a nevidím v něm žádné slabé chvilky. Řeknu to mou rodnou Ostravštinou “dobré jak cyp”.
This was a little bit tricky to get into as it goes so fast, but damn is the artwork beautiful and story entirely unique. As someone who loves D&D and role-playing games, this was really fun... plus seeing the Matt Mercer blurb made me a little giddy.
I love the art style! It is about a group of kids that play DnD. Get sucked into the world..come back scarred and minus one and then have to go back as adults...It plays with their insecurities and angst. And this time they wonder if they will be able to come out...
4/27 Update: All right, I've read this first Die volume three times now and it's grown on me immensely. The characters are a bit stiff, but the setting and stakes are efficiently introduced and intrigue levels are extremely high. I suppose if you read something enough (and have a better sense of what future volumes will hold), you'll come to love it. Clearly, that's the case with Die.
Previous review: Die is a gorgeous dark fantasy, but for a book that leans so hard on its characters, it does the bare minimum to make us care about them. Backstory is limited to the first handful of pages - and then we're off! Soaring into a living fantasy realm conjured from the imagination of a 16-year-old boy. It's wildly imaginative and Stephanie Hans' art is as good as advertised (although the character's facial expression can be a tad sloppy).
But as the situation escalates and we get a feel for each character's unique skillset, we miss out on why the skillset matches the person or why the person acts the way they do. When the final twist rolls around, it comes as a surprise since the characters involved exhibited little evidence of their forthcoming actions.
I feel like I wouldn't complain if Die didn't feel so dense and important. Between the art and the numerous voiceover bubbles, it's the kind of comic you're inclined to pour over to soak up every detail. When the details are fine but some of the main pieces are missing, you have to speak up.
I started reading this because I adore Kieron Gillen's writing - he's utterly fantastic at creating deeply fascinating but fucked up urban fantasy worlds, and I very very quickly fell in love with the concept of Die. The sheer idea of 'a group of kids literally fall into an edgy fantasy RPG,' is amazing, and if you've ever played an RPG, deeply horrified at the thought of children having to survive in that environment. Die plays with that idea, breaks down the idea of RPG mechanics, deals with the consequences of their return to the real world, and then, shoves them straight back into the hellscape they escaped from, 25 years later. It's rad.
I am, in fact, losing my *mind* about Stephanie Hans' art. God, it's all so fluid and emotive, with such sweepng and dramatic bursts of colour. Her sense of colour and form is utterly breathtaking. I hope one day I can paint and draw like she does.
This is wild. Imagine Jumanji mixed with elements of It. Stephanie Hans is a remarkable artist. Her work is truly unique, and the color palette really pierces, with neons and reds accented by darkness.
The story is fascinating, but it’s really a vehicle for the character exploration. The central theme seems to be about creating your own reality, and where fantasy collides with... well... again, reality. I’m a bad writer. Sue me.
The climaxes were explosive, but the best parts are the pieces of character driven world building. Like the characters themselves, I truly felt transported to a strange land of make believe. There was a frightening and unpredictable element to this, and it really worked here. It was subtle.
Really stunning all across the board. The art is stylistically interesting and really lovely to look at - despite the detail work it feels very smooth and dreamy. The story itself hits me right where I live, so to speak. A bunch of teens in the 90s play an RPG that transports them into the fantasy world, and when they emerge they aren't the same. When they return as adults it's even more fraught. I loved the world-building and game work that went into this, as well as this being a story about gamers that was so clearly written by someone who has been a part of that culture. Brooding and dripping with regret, rooted in fantasy tropes that have been twisted enough to be fresh, and meditative on the nature of fantasy and collective reality. I really loved this collection and look forward to more.