Die!Die!Die! #1 [Late] Review: Smug Characters and a Confused Narrative

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A man is chased down after leaving a dog race. The men chasing him are assassins, but the man is also a highly trained operative. He kills most of the assassins with ease, but he recognizes one, who takes the man down and relieves him of his nose. We are then given a rundown of an extrajudicial government assassination unit that kills people who are actively making the world a worse place for everyone. We meet Senator Connie Lipshitz — the woman who hired the now-noseless man. She is informed of the situation and must decide how to respond.

Die Die Die #1 cover by Chris Burnham and Nathan Fairbairn
Die!Die!Die! #1 cover by Chris Burnham and Nathan Fairbairn

I've chosen to not beat around the bush with the amount of disdain I hold for Die!Die!Die!. That's half because it's two weeks old — and I'm just now getting around to covering it — and half because I really do find little of redeeming value in this book beyond the art.

Die!Die!Die! wouldn't be so frigging insufferable if it wasn't so smug in everything about its presentation. It is a comic, not unlike Deadpool, that thinks it's so bleeding funny and clever, when it's really a handful of sarcastic remarks masked in reference humor. The difference, of course, is that Die!Die!Die! makes trite geopolitical references while Deadpool sticks to trite pop culture references.

I've nothing wrong with a story that revels in its own ugliness like Die!Die!Die!, but you need to give the reader something to grasp onto. There's nothing of the sort in this comic. All the characters waver between obnoxious and morally bankrupt, and none of them are funny.

Also, I get it, Connie Lipshitz is HRC.

I'm not sure what the comic is trying to say with its attempted satire either. Is Connie evil? Misguided? Put into a corner and just trying to do her best? What is it? Extrajudicial assassination is still pretty fascistic and a ghoulish way of getting things done, so I can't imagine she's supposed to be a heroic figure. I'm almost willing to applaud the intentionally vague portrayal of her morality, but given that the rest of the comic is so brash in its propensity towards making the "bad guys" suffer, it comes off as more indecisive and skittish than intentional moral ambiguity.

Trying to present a nihilistic gorefest that also tramples all over thorny issues isn't an inherently bad move — see Jimmy's Bastards for a masterclass on that one — but there has to be more than the gore and the shooting. Jimmy's Bastards has two likable leads and genuine, you know, humor. I'm not compelled to give a toss about any of the jokers shooting and butchering their way through Die!Die!Die!.

Even the affected smugness of the comic needn't be a detriment. Again, Jimmy's Bastards is a smug-ass comic written by another storied and talented writer in Garth Ennis. However, Ennis injected some self-awareness and self-deprecation to keep the book from feeling like someone's victory lap. And no, not-Hillary wringing her hands over her actions is not self-awareness of its haughty and brash presentation; it's weakly admitting to the spotty morality of the premise.

If the comic wants to parody the kill-crazy G-Man action hero archetype like Jack Bauer, then do that. However, this comic still goes to far too much trouble to justify its characters and make them look like genuine badass action stars to come anywhere close to an effective parody of that mode of story.

Die Die Die #1 art by Chris Burnham and Nathan Fairbairn
Die!Die!Die! #1 art by Chris Burnham and Nathan Fairbairn

At least, Chris Burnham and Nathan Fairbairn do a good job of making sure the art has a rough grittiness to match the narrative. The gore is handled well, and the overall aesthetic has an appealing ugliness that deserves a better story to go with it.

Die!Die!Die! #1 is just not good. I know this message is a couple of weeks too late, but maybe this will help anyone thinking of going back and picking it up. The characters are smug and insufferable, the humor is nigh unbearable, and the story is far from original and does little to freshen this premise. The promise of "ultraviolent mayhem" is arguably kept, except for the long drought in the middle where the comic tries to explain its own premise then backs away with a wishy-washy scene of a Hillary Clinton analogue vaguely wringing her hands.

I'd advise giving it a hard pass.

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About Joshua Davison

Josh is a longtime super hero comic fan and an aspiring comic book and fiction writer himself. He also trades in videogames, Star Wars, and Magic: The Gathering, and he is also a budding film buff. He's always been a huge nerd, and he hopes to contribute something of worth to the wider geek culture conversation. He is also happy to announce that he is the new Reviews Editor for Bleeding Cool. Follow on Twitter @joshdavisonbolt.
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