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‘DIE Vol. 2: Split the Party’ Review

Not everyone wants to go home.

Splitting the party.  The players have decided to divide themselves because of divergent strategies.  Sometimes this is coordinated and amicable.  In DIE Vol. 2, it is not.  The powerful and transformative amalgamation of RPG, fantasy, gaming, 19th century literature, and human suffering is back, so get ready.

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Alright, so the players don’t want to play anymore… except two of them, and Sol’s dealt with it so they can go home… except the party’s not unanimous anymore, so… oh f*@%, here we go again.  Taking your favorite fantasy RPG and injecting it with five times the legal dose of trauma, DIE Vol. 2 continues to explore the lore, origins, and inspiration behind this 20-sided world.  Kieron Gillen, Stephanie Hans, Clayton Cowles, and Elvire de Cock continue to deconstruct the inner workings of the RPG through their second arc.  As we dive into the consciousnesses of each of the party members, Die Vol. 2 has the courage to ask, what would it take for you to betray your reality?

As we discover more about the players’ real lives, characters, and how they intertwine, their desires to return home rise and fall.  Their paths twist and turn as they try to weigh the pros and cons of staying in Die vs. going home.  I previously described Gillen, Hans, and Cowles at the top of a tall tower somewhere Sol’s devilish grin on their faces.  I suppose that could still be said, though this time with Ash’s solemn resolve as she declares that there’s no going back now.  In reality, I feel like it’s more like Izzy’s look of worry on their faces as they ask themselves, “What have we done?”  I’m not sure if my blood is pumping with excitement or nervous anticipation.  Close enough, right?

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The breakdown for this arc is simple enough.  Issue #6 is the Angela issue as we navigate her struggles with trauma and loneliness.  Issue #7 Is the Chuck and Isabelle issue as we navigate his choice to live life without consequences and real human connection while learning more about the Gods that Isabelle is indebted to.  Issue #8 is the Matt issue as we see how where the grief behind his power really comes from.  Issue #9 gives us more of the world with the Brontë issue, where we learn that the world of Die had a history before our party members even got there and will continue to have one after they leave.  Finally, with issue #10, we have the Ash issue, where we see the divergence between who he is out there and who she is in here.

All of these smaller stories and histories are carefully woven together with the fabric of the world itself into one large tapestry.  Die Vol. 1 was all about the mechanics and intricacies that make the world of Die tick.  Vol. 2 is about the people who inhabit it.  Robin D. Laws, famous RPG creator, writer, and critic, wrote about the different player archetypes.  Combine that with different and common character classes, and each issue provides a unique experience for the reader.

Angela is a likely to be a Power Gamer and a sorcerer.  With her abilities gifted to her by the powerful race known as the Fair and her constantly testing the limits of Fair gold to utilize new abilities, it’s the perfect combination.  Gillen is able to play up the idea that everything has a cost and that it is often more than just a monetary one.  Making the Fair a binary entity obsessed with ones and zeros plays up both Angela and Gillen’s game designer roots.  After all, Angela’s entire character is based around collecting coins and unlocking new abilities.  Hans accentuates her mysterious, cyberpunk aesthetic and makes her character especially look like a video game protagonist with an animal companion.  That’s just one of the many ways Gillen, Hans and Cowles masterfully craft Die.

Die Vol. 2: Split the Party
Is it good?
Gillen, Hans, and Cowles continue to eloquently combine worlds of fantasy, RPG, game design, and literature into a beautiful and horrifying tapestry of suffering.
Excellent use of deconstruction from the fantasy elements, the RPG elements, the character classes, the Bronte elements and more.
Between actual RPG tips and meaningful insight into how the story was crafted, Die continues to have some of the best backmatter around.
Stephanie Hans is a savant at crafting this fantasy world where different locations and character interactions precisely reflect the mood of what is being said.
The British Literature angle was fascinating even if it wasn't the easiest to understand.
Despite the variation and unorthodox nature of the various captions and balloons, Cowles proves why he's one of the best in the business with lettering that's always perfect for what's going on.
10
Fantastic

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