Writers: Robert Kirkman & Scott M. Gimple
Artist/Cover artist: Chris Burnham
Colors: Nathan Fairbairn
Letters: Rus Wooton
Editor: Sean Mackiewicz
Publisher: Image Comics/Skybound Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US
Die!Die!Die! is one of the most interesting comic books in the traditional mainstream marketplace, not just this week, but this year and perhaps beyond that, but it has nothing to do with the content. It’s for the notion of a surprise comic, a token of appreciation for direct-market retailers and as an experiment in subversion of pop-culture expectations. For those reasons alone, it merits plenty of discussion, but this is a comic review, not an exploration of the culture of marketing and economics in the comic-book business. I didn’t pick up this book for its inherent collectibility or its novel release plan, but rather because I’m interested in the storytelling of Robert Kirkman, who’s achieved actual fame for The Walking Dead. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed a number of his other projects, and while Die!Die!Die! doesn’t boast the engaging characterization of TWD or Outcast, it is entertaining. What’s surprising about Die!Die!Die! is that it reads very much like a Garth Ennis book, not a Kirkman comic, so it will appeal to fans of that other writer’s work.
Thanks to the secret machinations of shadow governments operating the world over, life plods along as it’s expected. For that to happen, though, these powerful but hidden forces require highly skilled agents to arrange the pieces of the puzzle in a way that they want them to fit. These agents are assassins, manipulators, even Good Samaritans, all depending on what the situation calls for. But when one of those agents is captured and tortured, his partner is assigned to rescue him, but he won’t be able to do it alone.
As I read this comic, I was put in mind of such titles as The Boys and Jimmy’s Bastards and a number of other vulgar, over-the-top romps penned by Garth Ennis. His influence here is pretty much undeniable; please don’t misunderstand me, though — this isn’t a criticism. Ennis doesn’t have a monopoly on uber-violent, black-ops action comics. Kirkman and Gimple have envisioned an installment in the Mission Impossible movie franchise if it were to be written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. As such, the appeal of Die!Die!Die! might be somewhat limited, but given the property for which these writers are best known, it should connect well with Kirkman’s established audience.
Another reason this comic reminds me so much of a Garth Ennis book is the artwork. Chris Burnham’s collaborations with Grant Morrison launched his profile and fanbase to high levels a few years ago, opening people’s eyes to his talent and the meticulously detail and extreme leanings of his style. Through his work on this book, he seems to be specifically channelling the styles of some key Ennis collaborators: the Steve (Hellblazer, Preacher) Dillon, Darick (The Boys) Robertson and Carlos (Bloody Mary, Just a Pilgrim) Ezquerra. This comic reminds me of the work of the two former artists in its action scenes, while Burnham’s depiction of Senator Connie Lipshitz, the woman running the black-ops program, definitely boasts an Ezquerra look.
I have to admit — I absolutely loved the cover gimmick for this surprise first issue. Using the same cover art but differentiating the covers with different gags in the dialogue balloons struck me as novel. These are variant covers that aren’t variant covers. If a reader, such as myself, opts to purchase a single copy, s/he isn’t being left out of anything, really.
Unlike TWD, Outcast or Oblivion Song, Die!Die!Die! is a baser kind of story, at a lower level, given its broad strokes and far less nuanced characterizations. However, Kirkman and Gimple still manage to bring a certain degree of sophistication to the script, and it comes in the sequence in which Connie’s narration explores the interconnectivity between the political and personal. Changing the world isn’t just about assassination and blackmail, but about positioning pieces on the board in just the right way. The script suggests that can be achieved both through dark deeds or well-timed kindnesses, even if altruism isn’t the motivation behind them. It was definitely my favorite element in the book. 7/10