DIE #16 is published by Image Comics. It comes from the creative team of writer Kieron Gillen, artist Stephanie Hans, and letterer Clayton Cowles. The chase to stop the dice has begun. With the party’s failure to prevent the forging of a new Die, they must now venture forth into the unknown. This issue begins with the party sailing the high seas. As the search for a fabled island hidden in the center of the ocean draws on, Ash ruminates. She thinks back on her son August and how proud she is of him.
The rest of the party, however, is struggling to keep themselves together. Matt has stepped up as the leader even as he struggles with his own emotional burdens. But before the group can dwell too much on their trauma, they arrive at the mysterious island. As they depart, the strange and eerie people of the island gather around them but keep their distance. Confused, the group splits themselves once more. But the quest to save Earth holds great dangers and horrors beyond what even the bleakest of the party member’s imaginations can conjure.
As the series enters what feels like its last stretch with DIE #16, I am amazed at how consistently excellent it remains. Gillen masterfully navigates between fantasy structure, literary reference, emotional storytelling, and RPG tropes. This issue manages to combine all of those things and highlight why this series remains my favorite fantasy comic on shelves. The best way to showcase how good a job Gillen is doing is to look at the first thing the characters do once they reach the island.
They all know that splitting the party is a bad idea, but they do so regardless. They do it anyway because they’re about to delve into the final dungeon. If you’re about to enter the final dungeon in an RPG, you have a couple of things to take care of first. You have to grind resources to make sure you’re all stocked up, and you have to complete side quests. This structure shouldn’t work in a serialized comic form. Grinding is the blandest aspect of playing, and side quests provide character moments at the cost of the overarching narrative. But thanks to Gillen’s prowess, we see all of that happen, and not only does it feel justified, but it also feels natural.
Meanwhile, Hans’ art is consistently excellent, and this issue gives her a great deal of variety to play with. Whether she is drawing a ship crashing over roaring waves or a foggy wilderness, she perfectly captures the scene. You can almost hear the sounds of the ocean and the creaking wood of the ship on the first page. And her coloring work maintains a high standard. The party themselves are often shown in various reds, which helps the reader feel the tension between them all. Once they make landfall, more blues and greys enter the palette, but the red remains, a constant reminder of their contempt for one another.
The letters from Cowles are similarly great. The placement of the bubbles is always out of the way and helps emphasize the artwork. The use of varying colors and styles also makes reading panels more engaging.
Overall, DIE #16 is a masterstroke. The references, the story, and the visuals are all among the finest I’ve seen in a comic series. Gillen’s storytelling is immensely clever and should be applauded for maintaining such a high degree of quality over 16 issues. I cannot wait to see what will happen next, and if you’ve been following along with this series, this issue can’t be missed.
DIE #16 is available wherever comics are sold.
he references, the story, and the visuals are all among the finest I’ve seen in a comic series. Gillen’s storytelling is immensely clever and should be applauded for maintaining such a high degree of quality over 16 issues.