17. A graphic novel: Die Vol 2: Split the Party by Kieron Gillen, illustrated by Stephanie Hans
List Progress: 7/30
Two volumes in, and I have come to the conclusion that Kieron Gillen’s Die series just isn’t for me. It seemed like it would be for me: I am a fantasy nerd, and I have gotten a lot more into table-top roleplay games specifically over the last year (thank you, quarantine and video chat, for giving me a consistent gaming group). But the joy of shared creation is missing from Die, that sense that you and your friends are building a world of endless possibility together. Most joy is missing from this series, as the characters are so caustic and unlikeable that you never get a sense they enjoyed each other’s company, even before supernatural circumstances drew them together into a fantasy world.
The first volume of Die, Fantasy Heartbreakers, gave the reader the introduction to the world: six teenagers were transported into a magical game world and two years later, five of them managed to escape back into the real world. Almost thirty years of trying to cope later, the five escapees are drawn back into the magical world and forced to see what has unfolded after the heroes left. Split the Party is fully immersed in the fantasy world, but it never comes across as that fantastical. Because the characters all know this world was created around gaming tropes, almost everything is some sort of meta reference or joke and few things are allowed to be genuine. And when all of the characters are unimpressed with the setting, it’s hard for the readers not to feel the same way. This isn’t helped by Stephanie Hans’ artwork, that seems to prioritize “cool” over “comprehensible” and can too often end up looking like a pretty jumble.
Writing intentionally unlikeable characters is a fine line to walk, and Gillen falls off of that line pretty severely. Motivations and goals are hard to keep track of when everyone just seems to be out to screw each other over. Combined with a world that reflects and enhances these people’s ugliness, I just don’t find myself caring about any of it. Maybe the gaming references, tropes and historical allusions are enough to keep some audiences invested, but I will not be rolling the dice on this series again.
Would I Recommend It: No.
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