The Last Session Vol. 1: Roll for Initiative
by Jasmine Walls and Dozerdraws.
Reviewed by Chris Jimenez
Any longtime Dungeons and Dragons player knows that the hardest monster to overcome isn’t a dragon, lich or the dread tarrasque, but the sheer difficulty inherent in managing the personal stressors and schedules of a group of busy adults. The Last Session Vol. 1: Roll for Initiative uses the familiar structure of a fantasy tabletop game as commentary on the lives of its players common to media like Stranger Things, but it instead focuses the commentary inward, back on the game and the unique social dynamics it creates and reinforces. The fantasy adventure is not a tale of triumph as a cipher for the characters overcoming difficulty in their lives, but, rather, the fictional narrative suffers as the bonds that connect its players are frayed.
Tabletop games, once considered the domain of under-socialized straight white boys and manchildren, are currently enjoyed and embraced by individuals of varying different identities, and The Last Session reflects how far the fandom has come in a scant decade. The typical adventuring party in a fantasy game is made up of diverse characters, be they what passes as “race” in a fantasy world or their particular fantasy class or occupation, and the principal characters of The Last Session themselves are quite diverse (even including the rare and much-appreciated asexual and aromantic visibility) but feel natural together, a group of people that may band together in real life as opposed to a focus grouped attempt at corporatized diversity that merely treats individual minority identities as something to select on a checkbox.
The Last Session Vol. 1: Roll for Initiative is heartily recommended for those who already love tabletop roleplaying games and the culture surrounding it, but it is likewise a book for those who love stories of queer found family. I would even go so far as to recommend this graphic novel to those who are curious about what it’s “really” like to be in a game of Dungeons and Dragons, including all of the drama that surrounds its actual gameplay.
Published by Mad Cave Productions, June 22, 2022