Lab accident. Genetic manipulation. Radiation. These are the usual methods one gets super powers in comic books. But now, thanks to Monty Nero and Mike Dowling’s Death Sentence, we have something a bit different: powers by way of sexually transmitted diseases. In the world of Death Sentence, the G+ Virus is a terrifying new STD, one that grants those who contract it super powers and six months to live. So what do you do with unlimited power and a very specific expiration date? This is the question asked of three very different people: graphic designer Verity, failing indie guitarist Weasel, and manipulative media personality Monty.
Originally printed in bite sized chunks as part of Mark Millar’s CLiNT magazine, the story works better in a 23 page format. As first issues go, it sets up the world rather nicely. The first page gives us a medical dictionary definition of the G+ Virus, doing away with the need to stall the narrative with exposition later on, then throws us right into the characters lives. Each of them embodies one of the different stages of grief. Verity’s anger at her dead end life is only compounded by her diagnosis, causing her to lash out at anybody and everything. For Weasel, denial is the order of the day. Six months to live just means six months left to party. And Monty, who has more of an air of Frankie Boyle about him, has fully accepted his fate, and is milking it for all it is worth, riding the talk show circuit until he presumably can’t anymore.
These three separate strands juxtapose each other perfectly, and the narrative flows well enough. Monty’s scenes don’t add to much, and slow proceedings down some what. We get a very good sense of his character, but little else. You get the feeling he’ll play a big part in future issues, but we’ve only scratched the surface of what he has in store for us. This isn’t the usual ‘one guy gets super powers, takes on the world’ story (though the last page does suggest that elements of this will come into play), with everything from dealing with loss, instant celebrity, and creativity vs. corporate greed put under the microscope. The powers seem to be secondary. How people deal with them is the focus here. The art from Mike Dowling perfectly compliments the story. It’s grimy and gritty, echoing the story, and feels like unpolished Steve Epting or Alex Maleev.
The characterizations are a credit to Nero. Each character feels separate and unique, with Weasel especially coming across an odious piece of shit who you surprisingly feel a twinge of sympathy for. Their separate stories are interesting enough to grab you, but the overall story is what makes me want to keep devouring this series. Where did G+ come from? Why is society so accepting of it? I mean, wouldn’t the public as a whole have a thing or two to say about. The hook of Death Sentence is a fantastic one, and the story crafted around it is the reward for picking the book up and cracking open the front cover.
Death Sentence is released from Titan Comics, and hits stores on October 9th.
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