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The Gang Breaks A Tabletop Cardinal Rule (DIE: Split The Party Review)


Writer: Kieron Gillen

Artist: Stephanie Hans

Letterer: Clayton Cowles

Designer: Rian Hughes

Editor: Chrissy Williams

Guest Colors: Elvire De Cock

Publisher: Image

To say that I was simply excited for volume two of DIE would be incorrect. I have been very excited to be sucked back into the world of DIE and follow along with the now much older victims who were once swept away into the fantasy world in their teens. Being patient for this read was challenging but well worth the wait. Spoilers ahead! Be sure to check out volume one of DIE if you haven’t already before checking out this review.

A quick recap. What seems like a harmless RPG game night among friends quickly becomes the impossible as the teens are whisked off to the world of DIE. Six teens entered, five returned. Years later, our grown protagonists are living out their days as normal as possible until fate (and a D20 die) reunite them, sucking them back into the world they were once trapped in. Fun and games have long since passed for this group in this world as they work to escape DIE as quickly as possible. At the cost of destroying a city, and striking down their lost friend, now mad, the party can finally say the words that will take them home. Some of the group isn’t quite ready to go though, and when not everyone is in agreement the party is split with no way home until they all agree.

Volume two of DIE takes a different approach to what we got to experience in the first. Ash, Angela, and Matt reunited and holding prisoner their Fallen friend Sol, are desperate to track down Izzy and Chuck who escaped the city they destroyed. Izzy feels responsible to save the city folk that she displaced from their homes and Chuck really just wants to stay in DIE because it’s the better life for him. Where volume one was a more fast-paced race to the finish, full of action as the party tried to leave DIE, this time around we get more character focus as everyone is stuck in this fantasy world while they Game of Thrones their way through the land in order to survive.

Gillen starts the character spotlight off with a strong emotional gut punch for Angela’s in both giving us an emotional attachment to her robot dog, Case, while also having her open up and talk about work and its impact on her marriage. Izzy’s story was more focused on the dedication she had to save the citizens of DIE, but did have a lot of interesting reveals that intertwined with Ash’s. Matt’s bonding time with his toxic personality sword was very interesting as his issue takes us to meet an order of knights he is part of and how they wield different emotions. While not a very action-driven volume, this was definitely one of the most badass moments seeing the brief clash between Matt and the Orders.

Among the spotlights though, Ash and Chuck definitely had me the most surprised by and eager to see more. We learn by the end of the first issue that before Ash left the world of DIE and returned to Earth as Dominic, they had conceived a child, later revealed to be the son of a Vampire. Through Ash’s story, as they are working their way up the political ladder, they share their thoughts on how they felt learning they were pregnant while being 17, as well as touching on what that impact had on Dominic’s life when they were married and trying to conceive with their wife in the real world.

Chuck. The character is purposefully written to be the worst. Becoming a successful author, then executive producer who has had multiple wives (with a number that is sure to increase), the guy only reminds you of how much of an ass he is while in DIE with how little he cares for the others. He is no way my favorite character but despite this, I can’t help but wonder more than the others, where this character is going to end up. Gillen gives this character’s most vulnerable moment (albeit still douchey) as he opens up to an Elf queen, followed by sharing some wisdom with the god of misfortune that is messing with him. Knowing versus learning. This concept coming from this character at the moment was so wild that it stuck with me as the stand out of the volume and really has me hoping that I am not overthinking Chuck as actually a deeply messed up character like the rest.

In volume one of DIE alone, there was so little I knew about the characters, the world of DIE, or what their time trapped in it was like. Despite this, Gillen, Hans, and Cowles had me mesmerized with their amazing synergy on this story. Each new location or focus on characters in the series just opens up avenues of stories to be told going forward as well as back, exploring their first time in DIE. It has me anxiously wondering how many zeros can I write on a check to make it happen. The strongest part of this series is the art for me, which Gillen’s writing meshes perfectly with, not going to heavy with the dialogue to which Cowles letters masterfully. Dialogue is fit into each panel nicely, with just the right amount reading space that doesn’t detract from the art. He even keeps the text bubbles unique, with a lot of variety thanks to the different types of creatures or events taking place.

It’s the art though. When I first saw an issue of DIE on the shelf when it just began, I knew immediately that I really liked Hans’ art. The ethereal painting-like quality was mesmerizing and had me feeling as if I might fall into the world of DIE any moment. It’s absolutely beautiful in its airy like quality and stunning colors. If Hans’ pages aren’t continuously fleshing out this fantasy world, she is elevating Gillen’s dialogue with epic panels of heroism or bringing the character’s emotions to life on each panel.

DIE continues to be a critical success for me, quickly becoming my favorite Image title out there. Split The Party was an excellent follow up to the first volume, giving us more looks into these characters that have some of the most human-like struggles to real-world people and qualities, all while being trapped in a deadly fantasy world. Not sure how you want to spend your turn during quarantine? Use your action to pick up DIE and get ready for a tabletop fantasy story like no other.

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