Alex: So, over the past month, I’ve started playing with something new on Twitter. Each week, I pick a comics issue that caught my eye and do an illustrated thread of little observations and stuff I enjoyed about it. There are a lot of problems with Twitter as a platform, though, so I thought I’d try collating those thoughts into blog posts. This is all very much in the experimental stages, so let us know what you think.
This time out, it’s Kieron Gillen/Stephanie Hans/Clayton Cowles/Rian Hughes’ DIE #2. Spoilers follow after the cut.
Gillen has expressed a little ‘difficult second album’ nervousness about this issue – largely, I think, because it’s so jam packed. But, for my money, it’s the best of the first three issues, pretty much exactly for that reason.
The first thing it does is set up the overarching conflict. Their friend brought them here and now he’s the big bad. Beat him, convince him (or, more likely, ‘convince’ him) and they can all go home.
Then we get the pitches for each character class. It’s yummy fantasy world building and catnip for anyone looking forward to the accompanying RPG.
To show their powers in action, we get a (relatively) classic fantasy battle, with cool hero moments for each character.
And then (my personal favourite bit) we get a little vignette demonstrating the kind of emotional nastiness DIE is capable of.
Note the flatter style Hans uses for flashback panels. She even applies this to single details in the present – Sir Lane first emerging from the mists of the past is rendered differently to Ash in the foreground.
It’s actually one of two ways Hans indicates flashbacks. For the fantasy world, you’ve got this more storybook style. For the real world, panels have these lovely rough edges – memories bleeding out into the present.
Other bits of ‘I ♡ Stephanie Hans’ goodness: When characters use their powers, all colour fades away – except for a blood-bright red. (In line with the lettering of Ash’s captions.)
Kieron Gillen remains uniquely good at observing and expressing our darker moments. This is relatable, in the most unflattering way.
I haven’t giggled at a page turn like this since the early days of Saga. Just beautifully unhinged worldbuilding.
One last note, on this month’s cover star: Chuck, who against every fibre of my better judgement might be my favourite so far.
Gillen has this way of putting together characters, where he stacks a couple of layers of archetype (god/popstar, or in this case types of player/D&D class) on top of a more realistic personality, that might line up or rub against those archetypes in an interesting way.
Chuck is a Fool, Gillen’s deconstruction of the Bard class. He’s also that player who turns up just wanting a good time, and refuses to treat the game too seriously.
That bottom layer of characterisation (the ‘real person’) hasn’t really shone through for most of DIE‘s cast yet. But Chuck is clearly drawn, in big bold lines that say ‘Bastard’.
Gillen has a tradition of including one self-deprecating portrait of the artist as a young monster in his casts (cf. Kohl, Baphomet). Chuck seems to be the fear that he’s actually Garth Marenghi.
Can only be a matter of time before Chuck says these immortal words, right?
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