On their shared 16th birthdays, best friends Ash and Solomon come together with a group of friends to play a brand new RPG of Solomon's design, only to be transported into this world for real with disastrous consequences. After years away, they return home to their world, only to find themselves unable to fully process what they went through as a group and what they lost in their escape. Now in their forties, the group must return to the RPG world once more to bring back something they thought they lost all those years ago.
This book should be every TTRPG fan's dream, as it shows the true experience of what is felt during a gaming session, but in visual form. The incredible landscapes that are brought to life in this all-too-real fantasy world are what so many game masters wish they could bring to realization as they lead their parties through victory, loss, and adventure. Adding in the real-life narratives of these characters elicits an amazing, complex web of trauma, courage, and some of the most layered character development in the comics medium.
It's hard to separate the gaming aspect of this series from the storytelling, and that seems to be intentional. Writer Kieron Gillen, a longtime fan of RPGs, has created a compelling game as part of this title, and it shows. Distancing the characters from their own creations, as well as the problems of their avatars from their own personal issues, and bringing it all into one sweeping narrative is a tough job, but so far, it is going very well. Gillen has managed to blend some very difficult elements into one fascinating story.
This is in no small part due to the bombastic and brilliant artwork of artist Stephanie Hans, whose detailed and gorgeous artistic ability is front and center in this book. The fantasy elements as shown in this realized RPG world are dark, haunting, and vast, and bringing the characters within the characters to life has the feel of someone completely embracing the style and setting of a story and showing it off visually in a way that no one else could. While Hans' name has been gaining more recognition as her career has progressed, this is a star turn for the French artist, who is showing her incredible skill in this series.
The additional wrinkle added to this is that Gillen, in the writing of this book, actually did create an RPG based on the world in this series and will be sharing it with the world in its beta form upon this volume's release. Given the explanation of this as part of the introduction of the story, that is very exciting.
Creative Team: Kieron Gillen (writer), Stephanie Hans (artist), Clayton Cowles (letterer)
Publisher: Image Comics
Click here to purchase.