A JOURNEY INTO FANTASY
The creative team behind the hit Marvel run of Journey Into Mystery, Kieron Gillen (The Wicked + The Divine and Mercury Heat) and Stephanie Hans (Angela: Queen of Hel), come together for another fantasy tale gone wrong. This story features a “party” of roleplayers who play a game turned real. The story captures the feel of roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder while telling an original fantasy story in the overdone concept of people getting literally stuck in the game. Between Sword Art Online and Jumanji, you may be as tired of this concept as me. Fortunately, this appears to be a fairly refreshing take on what some refer to as the Isekai genre.
I’m a repetitive roleplayer myself. So, as I read this first issue, I felt like I understood these characters. Sol, the mysterious GM who calls himself Master, Chuck, the annoying jerk who plays for fun and becomes the Fool, Matthew, the depressed downer geek who becomes the Grief Knight, Angela, the younger sister along for the ride who just wants to be a cyberpunk, Isabelle, the mean girlfriend of your best friend, and Dominic, the narrator and probable protagonist who enjoys the game as the Dictator. All of the classes are original, and I’m excited to see how the personalities of the characters parallel with the game characters they’ve chosen to play.
A recurring concept in the comic is that the singular term for dice is “die”—the title of the series and most likely the stake of the story. Without ever stating it, the story makes me feel like the stakes are real, that any of the characters could die. I connected to the characters in a single issue. Hans art gives me perfect insight into the feeling and personality of each character. From Chuck’s mischievous grins to Matthew’s dour frowns, I understand these characters on the visuals alone. I’m invested, so I hope they don’t die; that is good storytelling.
Each of the players are gifted with a specific die, as well. Chuck—The Fool—receives the four-sided die, which likely grants him a higher rate of success and failure than the others. I’m going with the assumption that the higher the roll, the better the outcome—like most games. However, we don’t yet know for certain. What we do know is that the dice are important. I mean the fantasy planet is shaped like a twenty-sided die. I’m also eager to see how they work out these powers. We don’t see any action in the first issue, but the story has successfully made me excited and cautious for when the fighting, magic, and adventure really begins.
THE COME BACK
A cool aspect of the tale is that the fantasy adventure seems to start after they already played—and escaped—once. Hopefully, there will be flashbacks that explain the references to Fitso and stuff. We get to see how the surviving characters moved on in different ways, some more so than others. Now, they’re back and have to finish the game, but can they still play?
One note I feel necessary to leave for Gillen fans is that this series is more like Journey Into Mystery and Young Avenger, tonally speaking, rather than the horror aspects of The Wicked + The Divine and Phonogram. I’m not saying fans of those latter series won’t enjoy this, but it’s closer tonally to the former than. Also, fans of Stranger Things, Stephen King stories, Jumanji, and, obviously, Dungeons & Dragons (or any roleplaying game) should read this. In the end, this beautiful first issue completely drew me in and has this reviewer excited for what’s next.
Verdict: 5 out of 5