Die is a multilayered comic from writer Kieron Gillen and artist Stephanie Hans, the creative team behind The Wicked + The Divine 1831. The Image Comics series is about a group of adults who reunite decades after a roleplaying party that changed their lives forever. The atmospheric book sets the stage for an engaging mystery through its writing and art.
As is the case with most first issues, Die #1 focuses on setting up the premise for the series. Gillen’s writing does an excellent job of juggling the differing feelings in the story. Initially, there is a strong sense of nostalgia. What Gillen does well is he never relies on the old tricks to remind readers of the timeframe. None of the characters talk about their favorite song, nor are they dressed in the fashion of the 90s. Instead, Gillen evokes nostalgia through situation and dialogue. For example, Dominic describes his friend Solomon’s mother just like a teenager would.
There is also a sense of sadness throughout Die. Starting from Dominic’s narration early on through to the entire group’s reactions at the end, almost every statement seems to be made despondently. The desolation of the characters is compounded by a deep fear that almost every character seems to have. The combination of crestfallen emotions gives a definite tone to the story.
Underlying the entire plot of Die is a deep mystery. Why did six teenagers just vanish one day? Why do they refuse to talk about what happened? Along with successfully conveying a sense of dread, Gillen does a great job of creating an engaging mystery. The situation is intriguing enough in a vacuum, but what truly makes the mystery stand out is the excellent characterization. The fact that some of the group are afraid to even say certain words elevates Die from a run of the mill mystery to something much more sinister and interesting.
The art of Hans adds to the tone and emotion of Die. The entire issue has a dreamlike look that enhances the fantasy aspects of the story. The way Hans plays with shadows and lights works perfectly with the occasional close ups of the characters. Instead of being a comic with an interesting premise, Hans brings readers into the world of Die.
Despite the fantastical elements to the art, the entire cast of Die are detailed and realistic looking. This is most clearly seen in the emotions seen on the characters’ faces throughout the issue. Along with the fear and depression readers also see mischievousness, regret, and even joy. The art flawlessly coincides with the writing; there is a lot for the reader to take in, but it is all done in a manner that blends everything together.
Die #1 deftly sets up an intriguing mystery. The down-to-earth style of Kieron Gillen’s writing pairs perfectly with the vibrant and fantastical art of Stephanie Hans. The issue closes on a strong note that exemplifies the tone of the entire issue and makes readers want to learn more about the mystery.