DIE! #2 / Writer” Kieron Gillen / Artist: Stephanie Hans / Letterer: Clayton Cowles / Designer: Rian Hughes / Publisher: Image Comics / January 9, 2019
Last month’s issue introduced us into the world of Die where our protagonists were stuck for two years before escaping without their friend and GM Sol. Now, after years on their own, they’ve been brought back to Die by the now-evil Sol for this beautiful fantasy epic, which is already one of the best comics of the year. In this issue, we get an awesome venue into the way the classes—as in character classes found in roleplaying games—work in Die.
These classes aren’t your normal rogues and paladins or fighting men and magic users of D&D yesteryear. This game has brand new classes for a brand new kind of play. In the world of Die, for classes we have: Dictator, Fool, Grief Knight, Neo, Godbinder, and Grandmaster (if you want to know some more about the classes read this awesome polygon article on the game). Each of those classes have their own personal die and ways they have to play.
The Dictator seems to be a sort of mind-controlling mage that uses the d4 exclusively. The story hasn’t fully delved into Dictator and the d20-wielding Grandmaster. I imagine Grandmaster won’t be explained for a while, but we get to see the rest in action. The Fool, using a d6, must take swashbuckling risks to keep his luck going, even at the misfortune of others. The Godbinder. with her d12, controls gods and demons, like a kick-butt Final Fantasy style cleric that solely uses summons. The d10-carrying Neo requires addictive metals to use her power, and the d8-holding Grief Knight, a subset of Emotion Knight, receives power from his grief.
Art & Arcana
Stephanie Han’s designs for the party of adventurers are absolutely gorgeous. We have a high elf queen who turns out to be an orc. However, she’s not your usual kind of orc, but rather these horrifying new creatures. Hans demonstrates the amazing range of her artistic talent, drawing a resplendent figure in one scene and turning her into a hideous monster in the next.
Seeing the player designs in action captures both their strength and skills while at the same time impressing upon us the urgency and danger of the situation on every panel. Seeing the Godbinder summon gods on a whim to fight orcs and under the implication that they will need favors from her later took my breath away. Witnessing the Grief Knight recall his Mother’s death to wield his magic sword broke my heart. Imagine having the power to help, but also having to remember the worst day of your life to do so. I don’t think any other artist was a better match for this type of storytelling than Hans.
Avoid the Past
A key part of this story is that this isn’t the players’ first time in this fantasy world. Sol, the friend they previously left behind, seems to have turned villain and knows of their return. He wants them to have a new adventure. The story highlights this when a Knight of Kisses, bound to Ash from their first visit, shows up. The knight has been long dead and wants revenge against Ash. This shows that their past is more horrifying than they remember and that this will be a new adventure.
More than a Story
Each time I reread this issue, I feel like I really get these characters,.even though I know so little about them and their abilities. Ash is slowly becoming one of my favorite characters in comics. Kieron Gillen (Dark Avengers: Ares) and Stephanie Hans (Angela: Queen of Hel) continue to tell more than a story with their new fantasy epic. They’re telling us a game.
Nerd culture has had a long history of fantasy tabletop roleplaying games. The many editions of Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Dungeon World, Burning Wheel, and a plethora of others. Many of those have been adapted into comic book series. Though, not in my recollection, have any of them started as one. The usual order of operation is to create a game, build a fanbase, and then write comic book adaptation or novel or other work of fiction. Gillen and Hans are going the other way around, starting with the comic book. Gillen announced that an actual Die game system will be released to the masses after the first arc finishes. Until then, we have this great comic to read.
Verdict: 5 out of 5