By d. emerson eddy — Die was easily one of the best new series to begin late last year. The series taps into the magic and wonder of roleplaying games, both in terms of the mechanics and experience of playing them, as well as the limitless imagination that goes into constructing them. The world-building that writer Kieron Gillen and artist Stephanie Hans have put into creating this world is practically incomparable to anything else. It's deep, incorporating influences from fantasy and literature, which shows even further in the actual working pen & paper RPG that Gillen is developing to compliment the comic.
I highly recommend everyone who hasn't already to pick up the first collection, Fantasy Heartbreaker, as you'll want to be knowledgeable of the characters and situation to get the most out of this story. Though, this could potentially be enjoyed on the strength of the characterizations alone. Die #6 returns us from the trade break, beginning the second story-arc “Split the Party”. Anyone familiar with RPGs would know that splitting the party—adventurers breaking into separate groups to do disparate quests—normally means bad things happen, sometimes even a total party kill. And so it goes with our characters here as we begin to be put through another emotional wringer.
This first part of the story is about dealing with dwindling resources in an untenable, unwinnable situation deep within newly-captured enemy territory, and to say that it's harrowing would be an understatement. Gillen taps into a frustrating and familiar problem, dealing with the existential cost of impossible decisions, as Angela makes a choice that will have you in tears. It's an incredibly powerful character moment. And it hurts.
All of this is beautifully brought to life through Stephanie Hans' artwork. Hans' work is lush, presented in a richly-colored watercolor paint style, where you can see the various different paint strokes and brushes, giving everything a gorgeous deliberate feel. It's also amazing as to how fantasy and science fiction easily merge and intertwine through the artwork, blending dragons and robots that perfectly showcase the breadth of this world.
Letterer Clayton Cowles also contributes in no small part to the overall feel of the characters, through differing narration boxes and word balloons for many of the voices. Often times having unique approaches to separate dialogue can be distracting, but Cowles pulls it off here and makes it work. Like the many disparate parts that make up the whole of this world, it feels right to have different styles for how our characters speak.
Overall, this issue is stunning, staggering, and heartbreaking. Gillen, Hans, and Cowles deliver a phenomenal next chapter in one of the best series to hit the stands in recent memory.
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Stephanie Hans
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
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d. emerson eddy is a student and writer of things. He fell in love with comics during Moore, Bissette, & Totleben's run on Swamp Thing and it has been a torrid affair ever since. His madness typically manifests itself on Twitter @93418.