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Zach Vandermeer’s imagination can get the young man into trouble: The graphic novel opens with a riveting chase scene filled with guns, fast cars, and a perilous cliff’s edge. It’s exciting and intense (“Twenty millimeter cannon blew out the windows; I felt the shells fly past!”)—and it’s also not real. In a few pages and even fewer words, the author establishes Zach as a funny, creative protagonist adept at spinning stories. This is what makes him so great at Heroic Journeys, a role-playing game set in a fantasy world, which he plays with an eccentric and lovable group of friends. The harmless game takes a turn one stormy night when Zach introduces a new character: a small statue named Gunama, from a dig site near the lost city of Erkund. When the seemingly innocent game has ended and the friends have said goodbye, Zach wakes from an ominous dream and wanders outside to his backyard—except it isn’t his backyard. It’s a reality entirely set in Arthea, a fictional world created long ago by Zach and his brother, Peter. Zach recruits his friends to explore this new world with him. As the quirky gang encounters wraiths, goblins, fairies, and ghosts, they also discover that they can become their game characters—magical creatures themselves, with supernatural powers and abilities. Zach leads the way as they stumble through two worlds, swords brandished, ready for anything. Turner’s graphic tale is both silly and sincere, gratuitous and grounded. The five protagonists are delightfully nerdy and bursting with love—love they have for each other and love the author clearly has for them. They, rendered in intricate black-and-white illustrations, keep the reader eagerly turning pages to find out what else Arthea has in store. It’s a breezy, evenly paced story full of humor and escapist fun.

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