REVIEW: DEATH SENTENCE / AUTHOR: MONTY NERO / ARTIST: MIKE DOWLING / PUBLISHER: TITAN BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: JULY 8TH
Comic books about the regular world suddenly getting an influx of super-powered people are a staple of the genre and are as common a feature as super humans standing in as a metaphor for minorities. Death Sentence adds a fresh twiddle to both these tropes by introducing the G+ virus, a 100% fatal sexually transmitted disease that lurks in the body for years, only to manifest suddenly by granting the carrier a range of awesome super powers, before killing its host six months later.
Set in the United Kingdom, the book follows the fates of three such victims. Verity is a young lady and struggling artist whose powers manifest through her art, Weasel is a burnt-out and talentless pop idol whose powers serve to get him into lots of trouble but also keep him out of jail and Monty is a gifted public speaker who bears more than a passing resemblance to Russell Brand.
Though the book has the usual trappings of a superhuman dystopia, with secretive agencies, massive body counts and apocalyptic levels of damage to civic structures, the core story is personal one. Death Sentence is not just about living fast and dying young, it’s also about finding the balance between narcissism and creativity. The main characters are selfish, immature and reckless but they all possess enough self-awareness to understand that their lives have been transformed into brief and brilliant flames. With great power comes a great many problems, and being able to squirt acid from your pores does not guarantee steady paying work.
The book also has a solid stab at the state of the world and describing how humanity would deal with irresponsible gods running around the place. Nero’s writing is amusing and funny throughout and Dowling conveys the tale in his usual gritty yet beautiful art style. Some of the narrative is a little confused in places (there is a sub-plot about a hat that makes little sense, for example) and it does feel at points like a firmer edit was needed. There are also a few understated scenes of sexual violence that will repulse some readers. Over all however this is a skilfully and professionally rendered work that will delight a certain sort of superhero fan.
If you love the idea behind stories such as Strikeforce: Morituri, The Nazz or Rising Stars but wished those old school tales had a touch more social relevance and a bucket load more swearing and sex in them then you’ll want to check this out.
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