We're nearly there. With one more roll of the die, we will be through this journey, as the following issue of Die marks its last. This, the penultimate issue of the series, one full of twists and turns, of friendships blooming and decaying, of learning who you truly are through this nightmarish hellscape that is loosely defined as a game, is its finest yet. As the group, including undead game master and creator Sol, makes their final attempt to leave the world of Die, we find that the way out is much more complex than opening a door or finding light through a dark tunnel. Getting out means getting out of your own way, of finally admitting to yourself the things that you've hidden for so long, and using that as your way back into the real world. It's classic, in a sense. Tabletop games have, for decades, given people an opportunity to live their truest selves, to be who they want without fear of remorse or judgment. These games have helped people understand their indentity and motives, to have that moment of not trying to hide or repress anything anymore, and to take that into the real world, living free as who you were meant to be.
Critical Role is back with their usual antics, as the prequel series continues for the story of Vox Machina, world-saving adventurers that will one day protect everyone and everything from an incredible, powerful force. For now, though, they're a bunch of bumbling idiots who haven't quite figured out this whole “adventuring” thing just yet.
Another issue of Undiscovered Country is here, and the zone of Possibility has become one of the most interesting zones of the entire series. In just a few issues of this arc, we begin to explore more about what America is in this new version of the sealed-off United States, and more about what it was to be American. Through creative works, America manages to gain a foothold in culture, spreading far and wide until its influence was unmistakable. Recreating that creative American exceptionalism is the task for this team as they continue to walk the Spiral, the path that will lead them to their goal of finding a cure for the deadly Sky virus, and finding out more about a nation that has been isolated for many years.
Cross-media sensation Die returns for another issue of what could be one of the most interesting (and most depressing, in a good way) comics on the market. The group is still attempting to make their way to the center of Die to get themselves out of this nightmare-fueled game and back home, while fixing their mistakes along the way. It's here that the group navigates the ultimate landscape of table-top games: the dreaded dungeon. With the undead remnants of their trapped former friend in tow, the group continues their journey, despite everything that's happened between them - not only in the years since their return from the first time they were trapped here, but in the time since their return, of which there has been much.
A new arc begins in Undiscovered Country, as the team is introduced to the newest zone, Possibility. After the harrowing experience that everyone involved went through in the Unity zone, it seems the entire crew is on edge, unsure of what to expect as they delve deeper into the Spiral of the sealed-off United States.
It's time to roll the dice once again as the Critical Role prequel series continues, with our group of rag-tag adventurers finding themselves on the wrong end of the odds once again. In one of their first real teambuilding exercises, Vox Machina enter a fighting tournament, looking to take their status of being poor in coin and rich in bad ideas and at least get half of that formula remedied. To do that, they has to come together and win a few fights as a team, though that's much easier said than done.
Scott Snyder and Charles Soule have returned with their vision of an alternate America with the release of Undiscovered Country: Volume 2. After a trek through the first zone of the United States, a version of the global powerhouse that has walled itself off from the rest of the world (in the most literal of senses), the first people to visit the country have found themselves somewhere unlike any other. Unlike their harrowing adventure within the wastes of the Destiny Zone, where marauders and killers reigned supreme under the leadership of the psychotic Destiny Man, the expedition team now explores the lands of Unity, a technological haven of artificial intelligence and cooperation for the greater good. As the team continues to walk the Spiral (a trek through all thirteen zones) in search of the cure to a deadly virus that is ravaging the world outside the United States, they hope to find their answers within the walls of Unity City.
Vox Machina returns in this third limited series, focusing on the story before the story: the adventures of Critical Role's first adventuring party, Vox Machina, prior to the events that fans were able to see when the show began streaming. There were several years of gameplay from this group of nerdy voice actors prior to becoming the international sensation that they are now, and, thanks to this series along with the prior two, we get to see these adventures unfold.
Another day, another adventure stuck in an RPG hellscape for our merry traveling party. Though split, things in Die are getting more and more complex as the group attempts to find a way to exit the world for the second time. Well, most of them are attempting to find a way out at least. With Ash and Izzy fighting for the fate of Angria, the rest of the party is doing kind of the opposite, looking to end Ash's reign on the throne. It's during this that we find the ultimate motivation for the world of Die: what brought these five adventurers (and Sol, who remained inside) back to this world. This series continues to really push the pace, adding more and more complications to the world, its players, and the NPCs that inhabit the game.
With the final days of this year's virtual HollyShorts Film Festival upon us, it's time to take a look at the top films of the year, as decided by the festival's judges. This is not a comprehensive list of the entire festival, as opinion is subjective, but these were some of the most praised and beloved films of the year. Before I get to the winners category, I want to highlight a few of the films I thought were truly special this year. While many of these films have been mentioned in previous coverage, since it's awards time, I want to give my own awards, too.