Die #1 by writer Kieron Gillen (The Wicked + The Divine) and artist Stephanie Hans (The Wicked + The Divine 1831, Journey Into Mystery) is a dark fantasy that seems to deconstruct the fantasy adventure genre. Where fantasy adventure is considered fun for people, they also have the potential for a seedy underbelly. The real implications of such events are exploitable for the writer, and psychological trauma is an interesting dynamic to bring.
You start off with a band of five teenaged nerds who play the sixth’s nerd’s tabletop RPG game, but the sixth’s nerd’s tabletop RPG game is one with deadly consequences. After a few decades, their lives are marked with normalcy and tragedy in turn. Forty-year-olds will have to return to play the game that traumatized them who lived in the first place.
The Time You Take to Read Die #1 is Worth Those Desperate Hours
To make expectations clear, the bulk of the first issue delves into the interpersonal relationships of the main and side characters. The fantasy angle didn’t play out that much during the course of the reading. I did see a lot of interesting set-ups for how the fantasy came together. It’s an effective way to get someone to buy the first issue, but there’s a bit of a barrier to entry. You look at the cover and anticipate something that isn’t middle-aged slice-of-life, but it’s what you get when you read more than the usual number of pages.
Despite this caveat, I would say to stick with Die #1 because of the interesting premise. The writing is strong enough to keep you interested throughout the pages. When you do get your pay out at the end, I didn’t feel like I wasted my time. I feel like it was worth the wait to see the world.
The premise of dropping into a fantasy world brings many possibilities for world building. While there’s a lot of exposition to situate the characters, I find the story to be fascinating, due to the potential depth the cast brings. They don’t feel like typical people that you’ll see in a comic.
Risk A Critical Failure For The Art
In Han’s first ongoing comic, her fluid art brings a sleek quality to the issue. The movements of all the characters feel like they’re in a high-quality television show. The dramatics of her artistic capabilities match Die #1’s writing style with how darkness creeps into the issue. I don’t see any problem with the style because it matches the feeling of the writing. I like how the shadows interplay with the light and how the characters feel creepier as a result. They all seem to have issues, even though most of them haven’t had their story expanded on in the narrative at this point.
While the designs of everyone gives them normalcy in this world, their characters in the game are far different. This may imply who their true selves are through the art, but this speculation might be a little too early to make. The duality of the artistic choices brings out great contrasts that are symbolic of Die #1.
They’re familiar and foreign in the way a person who plays Dungeons and Dragons would make their characters. There’s an outline, but the details are unique to them. I can see the research that went into Die #1 to bring the nostalgia of the past and the current drama of the future.
Why Should You Read Die #1?
Die #1 brings you a sharp story filled with beautiful art. The potential of this premise brings me hope that future issues will hit the ground running. I’m looking forward to seeing what the next issue brings, due to the strength of the promise of the future. These two have a track record of fantasy that tells me they won’t disappoint their fans. It seems like it’ll subvert the traditional ‘go-into-a-fantasy-world-and-have-adventures’ narrative that we see from time to time.