Script by: Kieron Gillen, Art by: Stephanie Hans, Letters by: Clayton Cowles.
Look at that freakin cover. LOOK AT IT. It's beautiful.
As we creep ever closer to the final pages of this epic story, I keep hoping there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. But the problem with delving so deeply into a dungeon, is that when you see a light, it's probably the burning eyes of some accursed hellbeast. Ah, to live in Die.
Die #18 begins with a flashback. Simpler times? Maybe. Happier times? What do you think?
The year is 1992, and the Players have escaped Die, for now... but, while their bodies have escaped, their hearts and minds are still in the game. They're free of Die, but the memories of what they did in that world, and what they had to leave behind to be free of it still linger. Held in their minds by the dire repercussions of a single second of hesitation.
Back in the world of Die, we finally fill in a few of the blanks, as we get a glimpse of what happened to Sol between the players' escape, and their inevitable return. And trust me, friends. A glimpse is enough. Maybe too much.
Back with the Players, and while they continue to descend deep into the bowels of the Realm of Thirteen, they pass some familiar locales... but returning to past locations brings back old memories. Memories that could have a dire effect on their future.
Die #18 makes a very powerful statement, and then asks a question of the greatest importance. A question that I think people would answer very quickly, in public... but one that secretly, alone in the dark, they would answer very differently.
The statement is a simple one: Be careful what you wish for.
Last issue saw us finally getting some answers. Just what are the Fallen? How is Molly here? What the actual fuck is going on? We finally got some answers, and the resulting headache took about two weeks to fade. The heartache still hasn't healed.
Well, like the idiot I am, I went into this issue with a few questions left. I got the answers I was looking for. Guess what? The headache is back, and the heartache is so much worse. We finally know what happened to Sol, all alone in Die. We know, and by the mercy of the Dice, I wish we'd never asked.
I'll be honest here, I was never a big fan of Sol. He seemed to be, by far, the least compelling member of the recurring cast. But, I never should have doubted Gillen. In a matter of about five pages, he managed to make me feel more for Sol than many other writers are capable of making me feel in five volumes. The flashes of Sol's past may be fairly brief, but the scenes you see tell you everything you need to know, and everything required to cause deep, profound, lasting emotional pain. So, yeah. Thanks for that Gillen, you psychopath.
But, of course, the pain doesn't stop there. In fact, it's only just begun.
Because, a question is asked by this issue, and I think it's a question that we really need to think on:
If you were in a world like Die, a world were you had power, where your actions mattered, when it came time to leave: Would you? COULD you?
The answer is clear: Yes, of course you would. Die is a dark, messed up world where terrible things happen. It's also a world where your friends and family don't exist and you're trapped forever under the fel will of The Grandmaster, who is, putting it mildly, not a very good person.
But, honestly, REALLY think about it: If you had the choice between being a Godbinder, or being a sales assistant in a supermarket, which would you pick?
If you had the choice between making your living writing about heroes fighting dark gods, or actually fighting them yourselves, which would you choose?
Because if I'm being really, brutally honest, I think I know which I'd pick.
And forced, at a moments notice, to choose between the two, I don't think you can be blamed if you hesitate.
Overall Die issue 18 was, as always, a darkly beautiful journey into the heart of humanity, framed as a story about people playing a game. Gillen continues to be one of the most evilly creative writers working right now, with each revelation finding new and interesting ways to hurt the reader. But, like all good drug dealers, he finds a way to keep us coming back for more.
Hans' art continues to be an absolute masterclass. Her use of tones, shading, and differing colour palettes evoke differing emotions, setting the tone for scenes before a single word has even been read. The muted colours of the flashback, the vivid red film over Sol's panels, and then the sharp clarity of the current scenes... each one bringing a whole new air to the story and setting putting you exactly where you need to be, to bring maximum appreciation for Gillen's plot. They really are one of the best teams I've ever seen on a comic.
I honestly don't know what I'm going to do with myself once this is all over... play more games, I guess? And REALLY try not to let any of my characters die.
If you're in the market for some pain, Die #18 is out July 14th from all good stockist. Enjoy!