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Exclusive preview: Kieron Gillen & Stephanie Hans roll out new RPG-inspired horror series, DIE

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Dec 3, 2018, 5:50 PM EST

Anyone who has indulged in any kind of role-playing game in their lifetime can relate to Image Comics' new fantasy-horror title from the immensely talented team of Kieron Gillen (The Wicked + The Divine, Star Wars: Darth Vader) and Stephanie Hans (Suicide Risk, Angela: Queen of Hel). SYFY WIRE has an exclusive look at the compelling cover for Issue #4 and a sneak peek inside the premiere issue.

Rolling out on Dec. 5, DIE is a dark urban fantasy Gillen often describes as "Goth Jumanji," in which a group of adult friends must confront a tragic secret from the past when a session of an addictive RPG went terribly wrong and unleashed an unearthly horror. The narrative has a hint of Stephen King meets Narnia plot mechanics, wherein a paranormal event in these survivors' youth returns to haunt them later in life. But Gillen creates some unsettling layers that will seem deeply personal and nostalgic.

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DIE builds upon Gillen's experiences growing up around Dungeons & Dragons and his affinity for the game's more shadowy effects. Here, six friends suddenly disappear one late night in 1991 while playing a tabletop RPG game. Their vanishing becomes an unsolved town mystery, but two years later they strangely reappear over 50 miles from their homes, forever marked by a bizarre journey into the game's dimensions.

Now in 2018, the trauma and tragedy have come back and the grown-up gang must confront an evil presence conjured from that first impressionable session.

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The concept for DIE struck Gillen while walking around the mall in San Diego in 2016, eating ice-cream and riffing with friends. By that evening, he realized why the idea was nagging at him so hard, burst into tears over Japanese food, and decided it was the book he had do next.

"Stephanie and I had been wanting to do a big project together since the last issue of Journey Into Mystery, and had actually started on a couple of things, but DIE just jumped ahead of it," Gillen tells SYFY WIRE. "Ever since then it’s been a whole lot research and sorting out our schedules. And really a lot of research. It’s that sort of fantasy."

The series is inspired by the unfinished '80s D&D cartoon, as Gillen pondered whatever happened to those kids after they got sucked into the fantasy kingdom.

"They actually got home in the final episode, which was never filmed, but it got me thinking about how that experience could have changed their life, and what they’d be like as a bunch of 40-somethings."

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More important for Gillen is that while this book looks at nostalgia and history, it’s not a nostalgic book.

"The world we create in DIE is informed by everything which lead into the emergence of role-playing games, but we also wanted it to be its own iconic mythology you can lose yourself in," the Eisner Award-nominated writer adds. "Stephanie's visuals is one of the ways we get that back. It looks like nothing else on the shelves. That’s got to be part of the point.

"DIE works on multiple levels simultaneously. At its core is these six adults, looking at how their lives have divulged from their teenage fantasies. It’s a mature drama about how all their fears and regrets interlink. It’s intensely personal, and lacks many of my usual distances."

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Check out our sneak peek at the trailer pages and exclusive cover reveal in the gallery below, then tell us if you'll roll the die on Gillen and Hans' new horror fantasy title.