Written by Keiron Gillen, Art by Stephanie Hans, Letters by Clayton Cowles.
We survived! It was touch and go for a while, but with a little luck on our side, we survived the dark few months between the conclusion of DIE's second arc "Split the Party" and now!
But let me tell you this, friends. The wait was worth it. DIE's third arc "The Great Game" begins with a brilliant and beautiful issue, titled "Risk". Which the savvy amongst our readers will note, is itself both a descriptor of the events contained herein, and one of the great games. A duality I'm sure is intentional. I look forward to future chapters: Monopoly, Mousetrap, and Guess Who.
And if you're expecting Gillen to return with a nice, easy chapter, to ease us back into the world of DIE, then clearly you've not been paying attention.
The world of DIE is a world of complexity. Even characters that seem incredibly flat will often show off moments of stunning depth. Let us not forget the standout issue of "Split The Party", where the Gaoler gave us a little of her backstory...
This concept is very much front and centre in issue #11. There are no huge story beats, no big twists. This issue is very much about taking the characters we love and thought we knew, and adding even more depth to them.
We have Ash. Dictator. Evil Queen. A woman who has used her power to seize control of the city state of Angria, thrown her friends in the dungeons, mind-controlled her babydaddy into marrying her, and generally acted like the villain in a bad grimdark fantasy novel.
We could so easily hate Ash. In many other comics, we would hate Ash.
But this is DIE. Everyone has another side to them.
So, instead, we see beneath her actions to the person buried deep within. We see Ash, the person, who has done what she thinks is necessary to survive, even though it's cost her so much. In one of the best scenes of the issue, we see her talking to Sol, the former Grandmaster of Die, now one of the Fallen, and for a moment, the veneer of the queen cracks, and we see the real person peek out briefly from beneath the character.
It's such a wonderfully crafted moment, you can almost forget all the unforgivable things Ash has done, to get where she is.
And then, of course, everything goes terribly wrong. Because DIE. When some unwelcome news sets up what I imagine will be one of the core plotlines for this arc, and introduces one of the other realms present in DIE "Little England".
The second part of the issue focuses on Chuck, Angela and Matt, as they continue their efforts to escape Angria and do... well, they've not got that far yet. But I'm sure they'll think of something, when the time is right. Chuck works best when he's ad-libbing, anyway.
This arc is the more classical adventure style. Bringing some much needed levity and action to the episode, to balance out the more introspective nature of Ash and Izzy's sections.
There isn't a huge amount to say about this part. Matt broods, Chuck cracks wise, and Angela frets. But, as I said before, this is DIE, so there's always more to any given scene. While they explore Angria's sewer system in true DnD style, they delve further into lore around The Fallen, DIE's zombie analogue.
Given how much he's teased about these poor creatures, and the mystery surrounding their origin, I can only imagine there's going to be a fairly heart-breaking reveal, at some point in the (hopefully near) future. Either that, or he'll never reveal anything, and just leave us forever needing more.
Just when you think everything is done, the issue wraps up with a final panel which left me genuinely speechless. I'm not sure where Gillen is going with this, but I have a feeling that no matter where he goes, it's going to HURT.
Overall, DIE #11 is a very strong start to the arc. Gillen's world building and character development in this series have been second to none, and this issue really shows just how strong it is. While I love all the characters, I would happily say that my two least favourite so far are Chuck and Ash. And yet, in one issue, Gillen has managed to warm me up, considerably, concerning these two antiheroes. I very much look forward to seeing if the seeds he's planted now are going to flower, and what sort of fruit they may bear, in future issues.
In closing, It seems almost redundant to keep saying it, but I'm going to because not enough people are paying attention.
Stephanie Hans' artwork is freakin' beautiful.
The work she's doing, aesthetically, in DIE is some of the finest I've ever seen in a comic, and just when I think she can't get any better, she produces a panel so perfect it genuinely hurts to look at it.
There are about three such panels, just in this issue.
DIE #11 from Image Comics, is on sale June 24, 2020 at your Local Comic Shop, or at Comixology.