Die # 2
Solomon, the GM lays down the stakes, both now and from twenty years ago. We get more details about our characters' abilities and the costs that come with them. The die (ha) is cast and our troop sets off on their quest.
Wasting absolutely no momentum or goodwill gained from their debut installment, Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans up their game even more in this sophomore issue, building on the stuff that worked well from issue 1 while further expanding the necessary world-building components and characters they’ve introduced. The depth and breadth of thought that went into the design and conceptualization of this world and the characters inhabiting it is impressive, particularly in how it gets baked into the story being told.
Shifting the focus from the real world to the more fantastical side of things, Gillen and Hans delve more into the specifics of how each of these RPG classes work and the costs of taking up these roles for our players/characters. Gillen’s simultaneously romantic and de-constructive approach to these RPG tropes works beautifully, giving his characters RPG classes/roles that feel both insanely familiar and wonderfully strange at the same time. The classic cleric becomes a Godbinder, retaining the same deity-appealing basis, but rendered new and interesting since the character inhabiting the role is a professed atheist. Bards, typically perceived as whimsical support characters, are remixed into the ‘Dictator’ role; a character class that basically takes the bard’s seemingly innocuous ability to manipulate their party members’ emotional states to its most horrifying (and realistic?) conclusion.
As with the first issue, Gillen takes a lot of care to render his world to be familiar enough as to be quite welcoming, but with an added layer of anxiety, horror, and strangeness that keeps the proceedings endlessly compelling. This book is an homage to RPGs, but it isn’t slavishly devoted to its tropes and conventions.
Our big bad Sol’s story gets more fleshing out here, as we finally get a bit more information on how exactly the group managed to escape the 20 sided fantasy realm of Die the last time and the tragic why reason why Sol was left behind. There’s a certain kind of sense in Sol’s trajectory from unwitting player to maniacal overlord, but it’s the kind of sense that just wouldn’t be in a Kieron Gillen comic. The possible, eventual peeling of those layers that turned Sol into THE GM is, in my opinion, one of the best reasons to keep following this comic.
Hans and Gillen also do a great job of servicing the ongoing story by quickly fleshing out more of this fantasy world and providing our team with a (for the moment) quest to resolve. Some compelling sounding locales (Eternal Prussia? Glass Town? The Dreaming Lands? YES) are name dropped that I can’t wait for the team to show and for our characters to re-visit. Our characters are given a way-point to follow, which I’m sure will be upended in quick order, hopefully, that for now motivates the progress of the action; giving us a good motivation to explore more of the playground Sol has created for his ‘friends’.
Stephanie Hans should really be given a big commendation for her work here. It’s a tour de force showing for the series artist and this is some of her best work. The designs for each of the different classes are on point, and the visuals of their power usage nicely ties with some of the character beats and dynamics Gillen seeks to establish. Angela’s Neo goes from a fairly seemingly innocuous cyberpunk to a tricked out warrior with the aid of her ‘fair’, showcasing just how powerful she is, but also how that power relies upon a truly frightening notion: she’s an addict that needs a daily hit of a shiny trinket in order to be this cool and powerful. The way Matt’s Grief Knight powers activate is sadly beautiful, effectively demonstrating the emotional and personal costs necessary for him to do what he does. I am so quite pleased that an in-story reason was given for Hans’ hazy, not-as-detailed backgrounds, making them into an integral part of the story rather than being a distraction.
Having spent the bulk of issue 1 establishing how our characters function in the ‘real world’, Gillen and Hans spend issue 2 fleshing out the fantasy world they now have to survive in order to return home. But beyond this effective bit of world building, the issue also continues to delve deeper into our character’s newly revived traumas. I’m certainly reading for the flashier bits, don’t get me wrong, but it’s the feels triggered by this forced game session that really makes me look forward to issue 3.
Die #2: Critical Success Roll
Writing - 9.5/109.5/10
Storyline - 9/109/10
Art - 10/1010/10
Color - 8.5/108.5/10
Cover Art - 8/108/10
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