I know, I know. After my review of Issue #11, why would I return to the world of ‘Die?’ Well, turns out, it’s not that easy to let go. Kieron Gillen is a great storyteller, and Die #12 continues that tradition. And yes, the points I raised in my previous review remain. But, artist Stephanie Hans and letterer Clayton Cowles shine ever brighter for their flat out stunning work. Die #12 features some pages and panels I did a straight up double take on.
Focusing on setup, Issue #12 finds Angria’s resident Dictator, Ash, on the brink of war. Little England cannot negotiate while Ash is on the throne. Which forces Ash, Isabelle, and a compelled Zamorna to come up with a creative means of getting Little England to the table. Meanwhile, Angela, struggling with her zombie daughter and the issue of time jumps, leads Matt and Chuck into Mordor–Sol’s domain of 20–in hopes of getting an answer from the Fair.
I can’t say I’m not pleased Ash has led Angria to war with her poor decisions and over-use of her Dictator powers. But, she is learning that she can’t simply rely on binding to get out of this one. Hans delivers an inventive in Little England’s animal-cum-extraterrestrial ambassador that hints at a larger player with a tentacled beard and triangular head. Hans continues to impress in Augustus’ neon prism armor that feels much more modern than Angria’s tradition. Visually, he and Isabelle seem to represent a chromatic future against Ash’s black and blood tinged dress.
When we catch up to Angela, Matt and Chuck, the bright neon blues cool to earthy blue, green and gold. The magenta turns soft pink as Angela recalls her daughter in the midst of her worry. In that sun-dappled wood, Cowles shows off his unique font choice that blends fantasy softness with the blunt square shapes of numerics.
I also love the bubble design for the newly introduced god, False Friend. Rippled squares, colorful layers extending out from each other match Hans’ many-faced False Friend. The Gemini vibes are real here, and with vibrant colors against False Friend’s shifting visage, I can’t be the only one that senses Gaiman’s Sandman influence in the gods of Die.
Cowles works very well with bold color patterns and room for exploration, I’ve noticed. There are details in his lettering work that I picked up after the fact. He does so without sacrificing clarity, or distracting from the story. This balance, with Hans’ art, is incredibly striking in Die.
Overall, Die #12 has not done much to critique or question some of the more problematic elements of its heroes yet. In an age where many creative heroes are falling from grace faster than you can say “cancelled,” I remain disappointed that the story doesn’t hold those tropes or its characters accountable without simply eliminating them altogether. For instance, D&D has come under fire for continually perpetuating lesser, “evil” races as darker skinned “savages” but in a series based upon the game, it’s not discussed. Issue 12 does set us up for larger conflicts between both parties. Here’s hoping for something that takes the story in a more interesting direction.