Writer Kieron Gillen brings forth a dark psychological thriller about trauma and fear in Image Comics’ newest series, Die #1. In just 22 pages, Gillen creates a perfect hybrid of Jumanji and Stephen King’s IT.
Focusing on a group of teens who disappear for two years after playing a Dungeons and Dragons type game, the story follows the adult survivors coping with their shared traumatic experience from 25 years ago. The emotional depth that Gillen conveys in each of the characters ensures that readers are invested in the well being of each of the characters as the story progresses. There is an underlying sense of dread and apprehension whenever any of the adult characters refers to their disappearance, giving readers a sense of the pain they must have endured in their absence.
Though my initial focus was on the story, I was amazed by Stephanie Han’s beautiful artwork. Her use of shadows gave each panel an emotional feel, shrouding the protagonist, Ash’s, face whenever he encounters reminders of the past event. In contrast, Han’s use of muted colors helps separate the dismal feel of the real world and the vibrant, surreal ambience of the fantasy world. Han’s use of the color red serves as a subtle cue to readers that an object or scene has significance towards the fantasy side of the story, and is a testament to the talent and vision that this artist brings to the issue.
Verdict – 9/10 – Die #1 accomplishes what most first issues strive to achieve; creating a unique and diverse story with enough emotion and mystery that readers will no doubt find captivating and addictive.