Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artwork: Stephanie Hans
Additional Colours: Elvire De Cock
Lettering: Clayton Cowles
Release Date: 6th November 2019
I’ve made no secret of the fact that Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans’ DIE is one of my absolute favourite books of 2019 so far, but this latest issue – in which the creators pull back the veil on the origins of Angaria by tying it to a rather famous historical family – somehow manages to take things to a whole new level.
I’m going to pull back a little in terms of the detail of this review so as not to spoil its impact, but suffice to say that this is nothing less than a masterstroke by Gillen. And while the reveal doesn’t necessarily impact the fate of our characters in any significant way (at least not in the short term), it does go a long way towards answering some of the questions that have been hanging over the series for the preceding eight issues.
Understandably, it does feel like a bit of a departure from the main narrative, but the additional flavour and context provided here feels like it’s going to add a greater appreciation for the world as a whole as the series continues. Plus, Gillen’s obviously exhaustive research into his new subjects ensures that the execution of his reveal is nothing short of immaculate.
In a creative move, Hans adopts a more traditional pencil-and-ink style for the flashback sequences, which picks them out beautifully in contrast to the painted approach she uses for the main story. As with a lot of previous issues, this latest chapter is all about mood and expression, which is something Hans captures perfectly as our ‘heroes’ attempt to wrap their heads around what they’re hearing.
The whole series adopts a fascinating conceit that Gillen has absolutely no qualms in digging into as deeply as he feels necessary, with each of the characters struggling with the consequences of their youthful indiscretions in different ways. The dynamic of the world is genuinely fascinating, with the group being forced to grudgingly engage with the rules of the game to get anything done, and the layers of subtext caused by the blending of the ‘game’ and ‘real-life’ versions of each of them making this a truly addictive read.
Once again, the “don’t split the party” rule is enthusiastically ignored as our ‘heroes’ find themselves reconfiguring before heading off in brand new directions to end the issue. There are steps that need to be taken to right previous wrongs, and while the next move is fairly clear, this certainly feels like a story (or should that be campaign?) that could run and run for as long as Gillen and Hans are able to find motivation.
DIE is a book packed with nuance, depth and imagination, and while its (admittedly concise) description as “Goth Jumanji” feels fairly accurate, it also doesn’t even begin to convey just how rich, detailed and utterly addictive the world that Hans and Gillen have created truly is. Highest of recommendations yet again for one of the best books of the year.