REVIEW: ‘DIE,’ Issue #20

Reading Time: 3 minutes

DIE #20

DIE #20 is published by Image Comics. It comes from the creative team of writer Kieron Gillen, artist Stephanie Hans, and letterer Clayton Cowles. Everything has built up to this moment. But before the party can reckon with the sentient form of the world of DIE, we have a brief flashback. Sol, as a child, sits on his birthday and receives a mysterious gift from an unknown sender. He opens the package to find it full of the same dice that began the game back in 1991. In the present, the party talks to the giant being as it asks its purpose. They attempt to answer the question only to be told that it will only accept answers from the Game Master.

With Sol in his current fallen state, they realize that they have no way of interacting with the being, which means they cannot go home. But in an instant Chuck comes up with a plan and attacks the being. With no other options available, Ash uses her voice to rescue him, freeing Sol from her thrall as she does. Chuck gives a brief speech about being a bad friend and wanting to be the hero, which is cut short by the feral Sol tearing his throat out. Now, having eaten someone and regained his personhood, Sol can interact with the being. But when they ask the being for answers, they soon find themselves in an unwinnable position that will cost each of them dearly.

DIE #20 wraps up what I consider to be one of the best fantasy stories of the 21st century. Gillen painstakingly crafted a story that is a beautiful blend of homage and reimagining of the things that inspire us. He presents the world of DIE as the pinnacle of game design. A place that allows the player to take from it what they need while also feeding back into it. DIE is, as a result, a story about stories, and what they mean to us. It is a game that serves simultaneously as power fantasy and therapist. It is an escape for those who need to get away but forces those escaping to face that which they flee.

In essence, Gillen has made a book about why stories and games are beautiful. They let us be who we want to be but also empower us to remember who we are. I never expected DIE to end easily for the characters, but I am glad to see that the struggle was worth it. By the end of the story, everyone has grown and changed in a way that was necessary for them to continue living. It is an affirmation of storytelling as a pastime and a challenge to make those stories real.

Hans is at her best with this issue’s artwork. The characters feel like living, breathing people and the pain and emotion etched across their faces is practically tangible. The design for the being that serves as DIE’s consciousness is absolute peak high-fantasy. A giant 20-sided die as it’s head and gleaming plate armor with a flowing cloak. It’s magnificence is equally ridiculous and entirely perfect. This creature is a pure distillation of the DIE experience.

To compliment this wonderful art are the gorgeous colors that I’ve come to expect from Hans. Ethereal backgrounds in blues and silvers and full panel splashes of reds and oranges when things are at their most violent. Paired with the strong letters from Cowles, every panel is a delight to look at. Cowles’ work has been consistently great in this series. Always clear and well placed, but with the added benefit of somehow finding the absolute perfect font and text box for everything. The flat, lifeless white-on-black starkness of DIE’s narration is perfectly evocative.

DIE #20 is a beautiful end to a masterpiece of storytelling. Gillen, Hans, and Cowles have a generational story on their hands, and the comics world is all the richer for it. I could go on about how much I love this issue and this series as a whole. But instead, I’ll just pour that inspiration into my own Tabletop RPG games. Which, at the end of the day, is the best praise I can give for this series.

DIE #20 is available now wherever comics are sold.

 

 


DIE #20
5

TL;DR

DIE #20 is a beautiful end to a masterpiece of storytelling. Gillen, Hans, and Cowles have a generational story on their hands, and the comics world is all the richer for it. I could go on about how much I love this issue and this series as a whole. But instead, I’ll just pour that inspiration into my own Tabletop RPG games. Which, at the end of the day, is the best praise I can give for this series.