Comic books are about escaping from reality. They give us the opportunity to enter a fantasy world in which anything and everything is possible. Die from Image Comics takes things a step further. The characters are literally transported from the real world into the world of a table top role playing game. The first issue introduced readers to its cast and mystery before its surprising conclusion.
The majority of the first issue of Die was spent dealing with the disappearance of six teenagers, the subsequent reappearance of five of them years later, and the mystery of why they never talked about what happened. It also gave a glimpse into how the event had affected their adult lives. It seemed obvious uncovering what had happened would be the main point of Die. The final page of the issue seemed rushed compared to the rest of the book.
The first few pages of Die #2 explain why only five of the six returned. It also makes one thing clear: Die is going to be about a lot more than it initially seemed. Much like the first issue introduced us to the characters, while the second issue introduces readers to the players. There is still an air of mystery and questions that need to be answered, but they are not the same ones.
Kieron Gillen’s writing is excellent, as the story goes in a different and darker direction. Whereas the debut issue sets up a mystery, Die #2 introduces a whole new world. Along with the new world, Gillen essentially introduces new characters since the group are different in the fantasy world of Die than they are in the real world. It could and probably should be confusing and frustrating. Gillen’s writing ensures it is a natural transition that makes sense.
Gillen makes sure that while they may have different personas in the fantasy world, the players of Die are at heart the same people who left the real world. There are no sudden personality changes. Ash is a little more confident and willing to speak out loud, but Chuck is still one to act without putting too much thought into it. The people introduced in issue one are essentially the same when they enter Die. The story is still filled with mystery, but never leaves the reader behind.
(This includes the opening team lineup page. It introduces the characters, lists their role in the world of Die, and has a real world biography that is simultaneously funny and sad.)
The art from Stephanie Hans is fantastic. As important as it was to establishing a mood in the first issues, it may be more important here. Hans does a great job of taking readers to the world of Die. Character designs look great and the battle scene is very well done. What Hans does well here is placing the focus on the characters can do over the actual battle itself. This gives readers a visual introduction to the cast.
Emphasizing the characters is also very important since Die #2 is a very emotional issue. Most obviously is the characters have been brought into a fantasy world against their will. Along with the real world ramifications, there is fear and uncertainty. As each person gets into character the hesitation can be plainly see on their faces. This is best seen in a moment in which Matt the Grief Knight has to be “convinced” to wield his blade.
Die #2 is a great issue that builds on the previous issue. The story moves into a new direction that answers some questions while laying the groundwork for many more. It also gives a taste of the powers and nature of the world of Die and sets ups a story that is fantastic in nature but based on reality.