In 2014, Monty Nero’s sex-and-superpowers graphic novel Death Sentence shocked and entertained in equal measure. Set in a world in which the sexually transmitted G+ virus gives superpowers to those it infects, but also limits their lifespan to six months, it followed struggling musician Weasel and frustrated artist Verity as they sought meaning to their lives in the face of a very imminent death sentence. It also pitted them against David Montgomery, a Russell Brand-esque egotistic comedian who’d used his G+ powers to make himself king.
The sequel, London, begins where Death Sentence left off, in a city torn into chaos by Montgomery’s massacre, and follows a variety of characters. Verity, having barely survived the battle, is on the run from various groups who are after her powers. Weasel is taking advantage of his newfound heroic standing, while coping with his son’s death via sex, drugs and rock & roll. Drug dealer Roots is using her plant-manipulating powers to monopolise the cannabis market. FBI agent Jeb is balancing a secret mission and a collapsing family life. And London mayor Tony Bronson (who’s clearly Boris, but too prominent a character for Nero to get away with saying so) is fed up of all this riff-raff.
Nero’s writing has a distinctly anarchic tone, with the story motivated by anger against the establishment. The government left grasping for control are pompous and selfish, while the chaos that breaks out in London is a clear mirror of the 2011 riots, sparked by an act of police brutality which feels all too familiar. Nero sympathises with these dissidents, even quoting directly from one of the real 2011 protestors at one point, while being careful to criticise those who turn political protests into mindless violence.
Artist Martin Simmonds, picking up from Mike Dowling’s work on the first volume, reflects this tone in his work, filling each panel with increasingly chaotic dynamism while nevertheless keeping it easy to follow and giving each character a distinctive look.
If there’s anything to criticise, it’s that the story doesn’t have as neat a structure as the first volume, flipping between many settings in a way that mitigates the sense of escalating tension. Some characters only appear in order to set up plots for volume three, meaning it’s less of an overall satisfying story. And there isn’t a moment quite as powerfully shocking as volume one’s scene of Montgomery taking over Buckingham Palace – though the not-Boris Johnson sex-and-angry-plants scene comes close.
From one of the most striking new voices in British comics, Death Sentence is a sharp satire with a punk rock spirit. This second volume may not be as satisfying as the first, but it’s a fine continuation of the unique and unputdownable series.
DEATH SENTENCE VOLUME 2 – LONDON / AUTHOR: MONTY NERO / ARTIST: MARTIN SIMMONDS / PUBLISHER: TITAN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW