Die (plural for dice)

Comic books were once considered a bit of a childish medium by the mainstream media. Now, they are the basis for the biggest movie franchise in the world. Next month’s Joker movie is being touted as the favourite for many of the academy awards, and that too is based on a comic book character. They’re now a huge part of media and I for one am very grateful.

Recently I have started branching out of the comiXology app and into the real comic bookstores to look at different stories. Podcasts and recommendations are the best way I have found new stories outside of the Marvel and DC comic book characters I already know so well. One example of this is a comic called Die. It started from a show on Kinda Funny’s YouTube page with the creator of the comic, and now I am eagerly waiting the next issue in a months’ time.

Die has multiple meanings as the title of this book. Death is not the main one though, it’s about D&D. Die refers to the plural word for dice, and the entire lore around the characters is based on Dungeons and Dragons tropes and systems that any experienced D&D player will recognise. I am not a D&D player, I have never even tried it, so I am sure there are a tonne of references I am missing.

I understand the basics of the game and the role-playing elements that have made their way over to the Video Game industry. Classes, skill trees and customisation are all a part of the RPG elements we find in many games now from Skyrim to Spiderman. These touchstones were enough to give me some moments in the book where I had to pause and process what I was reading.

The first 5 issues of Die are available as a collected volume now, and if you have any interest in comics, I would recommend it wholeheartedly. Not because it’s a brilliant insight into D&D, which it is, but because it’s a completely unique premise that has the characters you meet at the start develop decades of their lives before you meet them again. I will spoil as little as I can, but the basic premise is that these 6 teenagers play a D&D game and are transported into the world they are playing in for real. Then 2 years later they escape that world. Well, 5 of them do, and one of them without an arm.

We then pick up the story when the group is well into their adult lives, some with kids, all with varying degrees of success in their careers, but all haunted to some degree by the past and what happened all those years ago. Events lead them back into the world of Die, but this time their need to get is exasperated by things like the school run and work deadlines. I will say no more about the plot, but if that sounds intriguing, pick this book up.

The story so far (it’s up to issue 7 now) has gone to places I didn’t expect and touched on issues you wouldn’t necessarily expect from a comic about D&D. Heartbreak, Loss, Joy, Escapism, Video Game Development Crunch, The bond between an owner and their pet, all of that is packaged in ways you won’t have seen before in a film or TV show.

Every comic I have read I tend to imagine adapting as a TV show or Film, that is just how my brain works. The images flow in my head from one to another. It happens for books too. Die I could see being a great TV show or Movie, but what it serves even better as is as a game. There is a tabletop game in development I believe with the writer Kieron Gillen involved. The world itself is so intriguing though that I think it would really suit the immersion of a video game, but perhaps that’s just my own selfish opinion based on it being my preferred way of enjoying games.

Die is written by Kieron Gillen and is brought to life by the artwork of Stephanie Hans. The pair work together very well and some of the art in the book is breath-taking. I often have to remind myself when I am reading a comic to take a second or two to look around at the artwork. So much effort goes into it and I find it too easy to skip between Dialogue boxes rather than let the art do some of the storytelling as well.

I know, this is a comic book review on a website about screen-based media. Oops. Back to the usual waffle tomorrow, probably about the Amazon show Carnival Row. Thanks for reading!