DIE is a brilliant comic book about role-playing from Kieron Gillen, Stephanie Hans, and Clayton Cowles.
DIE is also a brilliant storytelling role-playing game (RPG) from Kieron Gillen and Rowan, Rook and Decard.
This takes some explaining.
The thing you need to know right now is that if you want a deluxe physical copy of the RPG you have only three more days to Kickstart it, and if you want a deluxe physical copy of the entire comic run you can pre-order it right now (including pre-ordering from your local comic shop – yes, it’s already time to pre-order November hardcovers).
Okay, now on to the explaining!
DIE is one of the most-fascinating indie comic books of the past few years, both in concept and execution. The comic has already come and gone – it ran for 20 self-contained issues from December 2018 to September 2021 in four tight 5-issue arcs with no fluff.
(Mild first-issue spoilers lie ahead.)
The story started something like Stranger Things: 25th Anniversary Reunion.
A group of friends used to play role-playing games together in high school, but it ended with their sudden, inexplicable disappearance – and just-as-sudden reappearance years later, minus one member of their party and with a bevy of physical and psychological scars.
Where were they? They’ve never uttered a word about it to each other or anyone else and went on with their lives. Some of them were successful, some started families, while others could never shake their trauma and subsequent guilt.
On the anniversary of their disappearance they receive an unsettling reminder of their shared experience and they cannot help but be sucked back into something they know is much more serious and deadly than any game.
There are plenty of “real world people are transported into fantasy” stories out there, but DIE had a special, undeniable magic to it.
Central to that were the real world characters – five wounded adults, some of whom had spent their lives trying to be completely different than their game characters while others chased after becoming more like their fictional selves. They each had relatable stories about loss, addiction, identity, and disability, and those themes were amplified by the fantastical world around them.
As the story progressed, it became clear that this was a fantasy story with a very specific structure. In fact, the structure was so well-formed we could refer to it as a set of rules.
That’s because Kieron Gillen, in all of his wild genius, not only scripted a 20-issue comic story, but also the complete ruleset of the role-playing game the characters were playing in the story. [Read more…] about It’s time to DIE – pre-order the deluxe hardcover AND the role-playing game!
Today’s new guide for Patrons of Crushing Krisis is my first guide for a creator-owned comic – created as a celebration of breaking the 100-Patrons mark!
With Spawn now crowned as the ruling Guiness World Record holder as the longest-running creator-owned superhero of all-time (and with him coming in at 3rd place out of 10 options in the April poll), he seemed like the natural place to begin my guide coverage of creator-owned comics.
As with many of my guides, researching Spawn’s publishing history held many surprises for me. [Read more…] about New For Patrons: Guide to Todd McFarlane’s Spawn
The Pull List was slightly lighter this week than the past three, partially due to me not managing to pick up any additional ongoings from Marvel or DC. I made a heroic effort to catch all the way up with Doctor Strange, but fell an arc short.
This week’s comics felt a little ho-hum for me, with even typical standouts like Flash and Paradiso falling flat. However, it also brought not one but two near-perfect comics, plus one unexpectedly great debut.
Here’s The Pull List for the 14th of March, 2018. New adds to the pull list are marked with *; dropped titles are marked with #.
- DC Comics
- Action Comics (2016) #999
- Batgirl and The Birds of Prey (2016) #20
- Detective Comics (2016) #976
- *Eternity Girl (2018) #1
- The Flash (2016) #42
- Mister Miracle (2017) #7
- Sideways (2018) #2
- Suicide Squad (2016) #37
- Titans (2016) #21
- Trinity (2016) #19
- Wonder Woman (2016) #42
- Image Comics
- Bonehead (2018) #3
- *#Dry County (2018) #1
- *Infidel (2018) #1
- Paradiso (2017) #4
- #Sleepless (2017) #4
- Slots (2017) #6
- VS (2018) #2
- Marvel Comics
- All-New Wolverine (2016) #32
- Astonishing X-Men (2017) #9
- Avengers (2017) #684
- Marvel Two-in-One (2018) #4
- New Mutants – Dead Souls (2018) #1
- Old Man Logan (2016) #36
- Weapon X (2017) #15
- X-Men: Blue (2017) #23
- Smaller Publishers: Aftershock Comics, Archie Comics, Black Mask Studios, & Boom! Studios
- Judas (2017) #4, Boom! Studios
- *Come Into Me (2018) #1, Black Mask Studios
- *Vampironica (2018) #1, Archie Comics
- *Betrothed (2018) #1, Aftershock Comics
Before we begin, a reminder that 2.5 stars on my rating scale is an average comic book and my bell curve distribution peaks at 3/5 stars! Don’t freak out and assume a comic book is terrible because it has 2 stars. That means it’s just a hair below average (and there are a lot of those this week)
Picks of the Pull
Big Two (Marvel/DC) Pick of the Week:
Action Comics (2016) #999, DC Comics
Dan Jurgens leaves us with a truly perfect, contemplative issue of Superman that puts a wrap on his stellar Rebirth run but also addresses his writing from over 25 years ago, as beautifully rendered by artist Will Conrad and colorist Ivan Nunes.
In Metropolis, Lois is newly reunited with her estranged Army General father after saving him from execution in the last arc. It’s his first time meeting Jon (sort of), but General Lane isn’t in on the Superman secret, so he thinks Jon is a regular kid. That makes it even more tense as Lois and her father square off across the dinner table about the philosophy of Superman. Jon has never been exposed to this kind of hatred and xenophobia about his father before – which is also, by extension, aimed at him.
Meanwhile, Superman is in space dealing with a routine chore of breaking up an asteroid that will stray a bit too close to Earth for STAR Labs liking. Superman is thinking about fathers – General Lane, his own father Jor-El, as well as Zod – all of whom were tangled in the cross-time plot he just wrapped with Booster Gold.
Superman can see the errors in the ways of each of those parents and they in turn reflect his errors back upon him. Clark Kent is good-natured to a fault, but he’s not always right. General Lane isn’t entirely wrong about him – sometimes his absolute power corrupts him, both in how he metes out justice and in how he isn’t accustomed to apologizing for his actions.
As a result, Superman decides to put right two wrongs. One is with Hank Henshaw, the Cyborg Superman, who he currently has imprisoned in the Phantom Zone. The other, eventually is General Lane. [Read more…] about The Pull List: Action Comics, Avengers, Eternity Girl, Infidel, Judas, Marvel Two-in-One, Vampironica, & more!
The Pull List is holding strong as 33 issues this week thanks to a huge number of new pickups – including eleven new number one issues (plus two already-running series I finally caught up to reading)!
This was an intense Marvel Comics week on my pull list and a lighter DC week for me. Marvel had only two books out from titles I’m not up to speed on, where DC had a lot of comics out in lines I’m not yet caught up on and no “New Age of Heroes” books, plus only one new number one – a relaunch of Shade.
Meanwhile, it is a big week for new debuts from independent publishers – though a few of them weren’t to my tastes (and one was entirely unreadable!).
Here’s The Pull List for the 7th of March, 2018. New adds to the pull list are marked with *; dropped titles are marked with #.
- DC Comics
- Batman #42
- * Deathstroke #29
- Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #3
- Justice League #40
- * Shade, The Changing Woman #1
- Superman #42
- Image Comics
- * Elsewhere #5
- *# Gideon Falls #1
- * Oblivion Song #1
- * Prism Stalker #1
- Marvel Comics
- * Avengers – Back to Basics #1
- Avengers #683
- Black Bolt #11
- Captain America #699
- Doctor Strange – Damnation #2
- Hawkeye #16
- Iceman #11
- Infinity Countdown #1
- Rise of the Black Panther #3
- Rogue & Gambit #3
- Spider-Man #238
- Venom #163
- X-Men: Gold #23
- X-Men: Red #2
- Smaller Publishers:
Aftershock Comics, Boom! Studios, Dark Horse, Humanoids, IDW Publishing, Oni Press
- *# The Ballad of Sang #1, Oni Press
- * Dodge City #1, Boom! Studios
- * Exo #1-3, Humanoids
- Giant Days #36, Boom! Studios
- * Highest House #1, IDW Publishing
- Incognegro – Renaissance #2, Dark Horse
- Mech Cadet Yu #7, Boom! Studios
- # Monstro Mechanica #4, Aftershock Comics
- *# The Spider King #1, IDW Publishing
Before we begin, a reminder that 2.5 stars on my rating scale is an average comic book! It should be my most-assigned score, but I tend to err on thinking average comics are good (confusing, I know), so 3 stars is the peak of my very distributed bell curve of ratings.
That means a 2/5 comic is not bad. That’s my rating for “uneven.” So, don’t freak out and assume a comic book is terrible because it has 2 stars. “Bad” and “Terrible” are 1/5 and .5/5, respectively, and I’ve only given those scores to 2.35% of the comics I’ve read so far this year.
Picks of the Pull
Big Two (Marvel/DC) Pick of the Week:
Infinity Countdown (2018) #1
This galaxy-spanning series is ecstatic – maybe the first time I’ve felt like the comics incarnation of Guardians of the Galaxy has resembled the tone of movie since the first film was released.
This book is built on a year of Guardians plot, but it could not possibly be more inviting to a new reader. All of the action is massive, all of the jokes land, and Aaron Kuder’s style of subtle figures paired with ultra detail is the perfect match for big space blowouts. It’s definitely the first time I’ve ever liked Drax, and the issue is full of amazing moments for Groot.
The Guardians have split their attention between a showdown with the murderous Gardener and defending a massive Infinity Stone along with the Nova Corps. Drax and the Corps start out faring better defending the stone than the rest of the assembled Guardians do agains The Gardener, but as both fights wear on the balance begins to tip.
With the [hugely shocking spoiler] scene on Earth that ends this issue, I understand why Duggan got this story upgraded from being just a Guardians story arc to a universe-wide event. He’s a writer who has been in Marvel’s big leagues for a few years now, and it’s terrific to see him writing an event that touches so many of Marvel’s big franchises without needlessly interfering with their ongoing titles.
I am absolutely subscribed to Infinite Countdown from this point forward, and it has moved Duggan’s Guardians run even further up my “to-read” list.
(Why in heaven’s name would you put a Nick Bradshaw cover on a book with interiors by Aaron Kuder and Mike Deodato? It makes no sense to me whatsoever.)
Small-Pub Pick of the Week:
Exo (2017) Hardcover AKA #1-3, Humanoids
This is the first English translation of this work, originally released as three French graphic albums and here released by Humanoids as three digital issues or a single hardcover.
Exo is a sci-fi motion picture waiting to be optioned. It combines two seemingly separate plots into one perfectly tense story – one of a NASA scientist on Earth, the other of a military strike force on the moon.
John Koenig is a perfectly average scientist who happens to have located a potentially habitable planet in another solar system and tasked a probe to fly its way. His announcement makes for a sleepy press conference, since any potential findings from the probe are almost two years away. The discovery is just another day at the office for Koenig – he goes for a routine physical afterward, and the heads into LA to retrieve his adult daughter, who calls him John.
Meanwhile, a projectile arcs from the moon to Earth, shattering part of an International Space Station en route to crashing into a field in Colorado before it starts to… branch out. Unfortunately, one of its findings is a schizophrenia man named Charles, who it is unable to control.
As Charles’s new crew seeks John, the military responds to the projectile by putting boots on the lunar ground – but they aren’t ready for what they might find there.
That describes just a sliver of the first 40 pages of this 120 page graphic novel, and it doesn’t even include the drug trip!
Exo has the same third act struggles as any massive sci-fi plot, but the tension that proceeds it is makes it worth a read. Even if a lot of the story draws from familiar tropes, it has the brash inventiveness to combine them in a way that we all hope to see from sci-fi films (think: Arrival).