DIE #18 is published by Image Comics. It comes from the creative team of writer Kieron Gillen, artist Stephanie Hans, and letterer Clayton Cowles. The issue opens with a flashback. Ash and Angela, having only recently returned from DIE the first time, go to a pub. Ash narrates the events and explains that Angela and Chuck had begun dating shortly before they escaped. The relationship ends poorly as the pair finds Chuck kissing another girl on the dance floor. Angela throws a drink in his face and she and Ash leave. They go to a secluded area to talk, and Ash ruminates on their escape. Particularly he could have saved Sol when they originally escaped if he had not hesitated to say the incantation to leave.
We then rejoin the party in the present as they delve into the dungeon at the center of DIE. Ash notices almost immediately that the dungeon itself is modeled after the Mines of Moria, though the others are slow to make the same realization. They soon find themselves in a central room where it looks as if a great battle had occurred. In its center is a strange book that Sol immediately recognizes as his journal. But within its pages are truths that the group is not ready to learn. Truths that could threaten their chances of escape.
DIE #18 serves as a reminder that Gillen excels not only at writing satisfying plot threads and action but at writing compelling characters as well. There is little action in this issue, and most of what is there happens in flashbacks. But the emotional impact of the group’s discoveries is substantial. For the first time in a while, Ash shows some doubt in herself and her actions. She has always questioned or noted the morality of her decisions, but it wasn’t really until now that she seemed unsure. Mix that with Sol’s revelations and you have a deeply compelling and heartrending read.
Once again, I cannot speak highly enough of Hans’ art. At this point, it has become abundantly clear that she is as responsible for the success and impact of DIE as Gillen. Whether she is drawing calm scenes of tense discussion or bright, burning battles, she brings a dynamism and artistic quality that few others are capable of. Each panel is a painting worthy of framing, and her ability to choose when less is more is brilliant. The use of featureless backgrounds that simply blaze with emotion remains one of my favorite aspects of her art. The work of Cowles is also praiseworthy. The varying text fonts and styles add immersion to the story. Furthermore, despite that variety, it is never difficult to tell what is being said and who is saying it.
DIE #18 reinforces my belief that this will go down as one of the all-time great fantasy series. Gillen’s plotting and pacing are outstanding, and his ability to write emotional moments remains top-notch. Paired with Hans’ gorgeous art and Cowles’ strong letters, I am eternally impressed with this series. I will continue to champion it long after it concludes because it deserves all that praise and more.
DIE #18 is available wherever comics are sold.
…I am eternally impressed with this series. I will continue to champion it long after it concludes because it deserves all that praise and more.