Every time I read Die, I end up more impressed than I was before. This has been true of every issue, and I’ve read every issue multiple times. I give Die to my non-comics-liking friends as a way to sell them on the medium. I have spent hours on research binges following up on threads introduced in Die, and I think that Stephanie Hans is one of the best artists working in comics now. Arguably, one of the best artists since 1900. I think that Stephanie Hans’ art should be in the Louvre.
I’m not just saying nice things about Kieron Gillen’s and Stephanie Hans’s comic because I’m being generous or flattering. I want you to understand the context of this run before I say the following:
I think that Die #17 is one of the best issues of the series yet.
As we get to the close of Die – there will be 20 issues, just as there are 20 sides on a d20 – Gillen and Hans bring the party through the twisted mind of H.P. Lovecraft to the very doors of Moria itself. It goes from Roko’s Basilisk — think Pascal’s Wager for nerds — to the nature of reality and personhood. It’s about fatherhood and motherhood, about loss and love, about Cthulhu and Call of Cthulhu. There’s no way to describe it to make it sounds as good as it is.
At its heart, Die is about the roleplaying concept of ‘bleed.’ That’s the idea that, at some level, the emotions your character feels affect how you, the player feels. Some of that bleed is good, intended even — after all, if you don’t feel triumphant as your character feels triumphant, then why are you playing the game? But you don’t want to feel shattered when your character fails. It’s more important, or at least more interesting, the other way around – when your character is reflecting your own emotions.
Die makes that textual. Ash is just a way for Dominic to express their gender issues. Matt is powered by his own emotions. Chuck’s superpower is denial. Their bleed between the world they have encountered and the feelings they have in the real world makes the story so impactful. Gillen explores a lot of themes and ideas over the course of the series, but issue #17 actualizes the fear that he’s been expressing since the start: that as a teenager, something of him went into a fantasy world and never left.
Gillen’s fear is metaphorical. Die just turns that metaphor into reality.
And the art! Wow, is Stephanie Hans great or what? That painted, lovely style – not quite washed out, but with these heavy dominant shades of reds, grays, and blacks; it’s fantastic. I said it before, but 10, 15 years from now, people are going to know Stephanie Hans’’s name. She’s going to have her art in a museum, and her face on a stamp.
Kieron Gillen has done a lot of comics with a lot of collaborators. He’s managed to fit a whole wide variety of styles, from Mora to McKelvie to Larocca. But I’ve never seen an artist so perfectly fit what Gillen was aiming for, and complement him so well, as Stephanie Hans.
Die is an incredible series, and issue #17 is its best installment yet. My sole complaint is that I can only rate it 10/10.
Like what we do here at AIPT? Consider supporting us and independent comics journalism by becoming a patron today! In addition to our sincere thanks, you can browse AIPT ad-free, gain access to our vibrant Discord community of patrons and staff members, get trade paperbacks sent to your house every month, and a lot more. Click the button below to get started!