Script by: Kieron Gillen, Art by: Stephanie Hans, Letters by: Clayton Cowles.
H.P. Lovecraft is one of the best writers that ever lived.
H.P. Lovecraft is one of the worst people that ever lived.
Both these statements are true, and neither invalidates the other.
Whew, the wait for Die #16 was a brutal one, but who cares about any of that now, because it's over and the new issue is in my hands right now, and WOW.
Issue 15 concluded the penultimate arc in Gillen and Hans' fantasy comic/emotional torture device, Die. Titled "The Great Game," arc three saw everything going hilariously wrong at breakneck speeds. Now, as the final arc begins, we find our players once more united, but at the same time, impossibly divided. All sense of unity is gone, too many games have been played, and while they must work together to get home, they are in no way a team anymore.
But when the party's seemingly endless voyage over the unending blue finally reaches its conclusion, they find that what's waiting for them may in fact be worse than the journey it took to get them there.
A tired town, full of broken souls.
A dark tunnel, full of The Fallen.
And somehow, our party, full of fallen, broken adventurers, must make their way through, and down.
Because the only way they can save themselves, and the world, is to get to the centre of Die before those cursed dice do.
Seems like an impossible task, doesn't it? Especially for a team as scattered as this one.
And all of that is before everything goes a bit... Lovecraftian.
Kinda hard to believe this is only the first freaking issue of the new arc. Really makes me wonder just how horrific this is all going to get, before it comes to its inevitably painful conclusion.
Really, I should have known things were going to be bad, when Gillen and Hans announced the name of Die's final arc was going to be "Bleed." But I couldn't have guessed just how rough it was going to be.
Our party of intrepid explorers have never exactly been the tightest of groups. In fact, they've been pretty heavily split ever since the accurately titled second arc "Split the Party." But, I think issue 16 is the most divided we've seen them yet.
Even at the height of "The Great Game," when they were almost actively campaigning against each other, the group was only split into two factions. This final act begins with the party utterly sundered; they are more a loose coalition of unwilling allies, than anything that even the most forgiving DM could call a party.
And so, there isn't really a single narrative thread running through this issue. Rather, we take time to stop by each character, as they mentally and physically prepare themselves for this final adventure.
And I've got to say, it leads to some really brilliant scenes.
And, while every character had their moment to shine, it was The Fool, and my least favourite character, Chuck, who gave us the issue's best scene.
His moment of clarity, and charity, in an abandoned bar with poor Delighted the Dwarf, cast new light on a character who has been lacking both clarity and charity, up to this point. In an issue where the rest of the cast have turned their sights inward, it's interesting to see the usually selfish Chuck acting in someone else's interests. A sign of personal growth, or just a lucky roll of the dice? Who knows, I guess we'll have to wait and see.
Overall, issue 16 was a very strong start to what I hope will be a fitting end to this amazing series. While it didn't do a huge amount to move the plot forward, what it gave us is what I usually want from a Gillen book; amazing character development, and some truly beautiful prose. And Lovecraft. Some distinct, horrific hints of Lovecraft, which became all the more beautiful and terrifying when brought to life in Hans' ethereal, painted style. I can't really ask for more than that. (Although, while I have you, I CAN ask for more Lovecraftian art from Stephanie Hans, please!)
We all have that one friend. The one that was SUCH a burnout, that even when they had a good idea, it became a bad idea, purely because they had it.
spoiler warning: if you're thinking "I never had a friend like that", that's because it was you.
And in case you're wondering, and have read down this far: Yes, Delighted's crying smiling face from issue 15 is still haunting me...