Kirkman and Burnham opened the Die Die Die series with a bang in a stunningly gory first issue. They’re back for more in a surprisingly talkative second issue that still carries a brutal punch from Image Comics.
Story: Robert Kirkman & Scott M Gimple
Artist: Chris Burnham
Colorist: Nathan Fairbairn
Letterer: Rus Wotton
Editor: Sean Mackiewicz
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: August 22, 2018
Previously in Die! Die! Die! A plan by a shadowy organization to assassinate a perverted British politician spirals out of control with unintended consequences as a group of identical brothers, all trained assassins, emerge from the shadows and engage with the world. Watch as one brother goes all out to save his kidnapped sibling in Die! Die! Die! #2.
OUT DAMNED SPOT!
Die! Die! Die! #2 opens with a flashback and ends with someone cutting off their own nose. In between, there’s the sort of hyperactive violence depicted with such casualness it left me feeling deeply uneasy.
Usually, I talk about the writing and the writer first in my reviews, but I’m going to reverse that and start with the best aspects of this issue. Artist Chris Burnham has done a stunning job with the art in this issue. The characters are expressive and the line work strong and bold. His attention to detail approaches Geof Darrow’s work in the Frank Miller series Hard Boiled, with the panels packed with activity from page one. The art conveys every punch, every kick and every headshot with vigor, but not in such a way that you feel like you’re reading violence porn.
Narratively, the art progresses the story effectively. There is a real sense of movement between panels, which are less a static advancement of images than you might expect. Colorist Nathan Fairbairn’s work also plays a part in the success of the art. While this book would’ve succeeded just as well with black and white art, the over the top excesses of it mean that you could only do it in color. Despite that, the coloring isn’t as in your face as you might expect, with the frequent depiction of blood far muddier and less stridently red than you might expect.
IT’S JUST A FLESH WOUND – A REALLY, REALLY UGLY FLESH WOUND
Now for the writing. There’s nothing intrinsically bad with the writing. Gimple does a great job of bringing Kirkman’s ideas to life, even if we’ve seen the plot before and where the lack of effective female characters is particularly noticeable. The interaction between two of the main characters, one of the brother’s and a Special Forces soldier named Nate. They’re bickering provides sorely needed comedy relief, in a sea of po-faced ventilating by a cast of hugely unlikeable characters.
My biggest concern is the affection for the overwhelming violence that fills this issue. Sure, Gimple has one of the assassins berate Nate for shooting down guards who are simply doing their jobs and have families to support, but that comes off more than a wisecrack than an earnest expression of tender feelings. That aside, the violence comes across as offhand. People are shot dead with great frequency, and no one is there to mourn their passing. No one suffers for the acts they commit, and while clearly all the characters have no moral compass whatsoever, Die! Die! Die! #2 left with me with a queasy feeling after I finished the last page.
Don’t get me wrong – there is a place for this sort of violence in fiction. No one is going to copy the over the top nonsense the characters get up to. But in an era where we need moral characters who really no right from wrong more than ever, Die! Die! Die! #2 purely exists for effect, and no deeper meaning at all.
BOTTOM LINE – WHAT JUST HAPPENED?
There’s a place for this sort of book. Die! Die! Die! #2 mostly manages to be an entertaining read, but only if you’re not too put off by the sort of casual violence you only really saw in low rent Italian horror movies from the late 1970s. While the idea of an international conspiracy running the world is so old hat the moths have devoured it entirely and flown away, there’s still some mileage to be had watching it go through its arcane machinations in furtherance of its existence. The action is fast and furious, and for those readers who aren’t troubled by a cast of unlovely characters with the moral depth of a puddle of water in the summer sun, then this fast-paced, gorgeously illustrated book is for you.
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