Comic Review – Death Sentence Volume 1

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Sometimes he reads graphic novels. This is a review of one of them. Minor spoilers possible.

This month I got the chance to read and review volume one of Death Sentence from Titan Comics, which came out this week. The script was written by Montynero (who did the issue covers as well), with art and colours by Mike Dowling and letters from Jimmy Betancourt.

Death Sentence largely takes place in London, and the story is framed around a new sexually transmitted disease called ‘G-Plus’, a virus that endows those infected with extraordinary powers but will result in their death within six months. These powers are unpredictable, idiosyncratic depending on the personality of the individual infected, and seemingly limitless until the untimely demise of the new super-being. Shady agencies are involved rounding up the most powerful and potentially dangerous, and bring them to a facility looking to test the limits of those infected, learn about the disease and possibly cure it. There is clearly more to the development of the virus, and hopefully the story gets the chance to develop further past this first arc.

The series focuses on three main characters who have recently found out that they are infected. The first is Verity, a struggling artist who is stuck at design job, and she is definitely the most likeable of the three. Weasel, the ex-frontman of a popular band working on his solo material whilst delving into a cornucopia of drugs and women, is based on pretty much every punk archetype you can think of and, while somewhat of an arsehole, is somehow tragic and a bit sympathetic. The last character is Monty. Monty is Russell Brand. This isn’t intelligent insight from me, he was clearly written to be a pastiche of Brand. You’ll see it in seconds and then you will only be able to read his dialogue in his voice. I had to try very hard not to let this bother me too much, because I really don’t like Russell Brand. I think he is a bit of an unfunny dick. I seem to be relatively unique in thinking this though, so I wouldn’t worry. And while I found Monty to be insufferable with really eye-rolling lines like “she played a faltering melody on my love trumpet”, he manages to become less of a dick when he starts to redefine nihilism by indulging in a myriad of temptations, even more so than before, culminating in wholesale murder (and the grisly end of a few well known public figures too). I won’t go into the details, as I don’t want to spoil too much of it. Suffice to say everything gets very big and entertainingly ludicrous in scope.

That’s where the story goes, and I actually found the core concept really interesting. When given potentially totally untethered power and a short, definite remaining lifespan, what do you do with your life? I think if presented as a thought experiment, most would say they would devote their remaining life to helping people or spending time with those closest to them. I think in reality, many would probably fall somewhere in between the actions of Weasel and Monty. Total or severe moral degradation and the pursuit of the basest desires. There are some interesting thoughts on the propagation of our genes being a true form of immortality, and there is a decent focus on art and creativity (two of the main characters are from that background) and the legacy and impact of art which I found to be a real strength. There is also a lot of sex in the book, a lot of sexual language, a few bits of rather graphic gore and a healthy amount of swearing, so if that isn’t your bag or you are easily offended then I would avoid this. But I think you’ll probably be fine.

I’ll be honest, I felt that the dialogue in the first issue was a bit clunky. But I think I may be reacting to the Monty scenes as an unfair representation of the rest of the issue*. It may also be the series finding its feet though, because it isn’t a problem I had in the later chapters of the volume at all. While the set up of the story and how the powers manifest could have seemed been a bit contrived, I found it to be a really original way of introducing powers into this world. I thought that the sometimes the need to be audacious with the amount of sex and sexual language bordered on getting in the way of the story, but it never quite got there and ultimately suited the plot, and I found this series to be very interesting. As I said before, it gets ludicrously big by the end. I found it to be almost a combination of the over-the-top finale of the Hellsing manga and Akira. They even even recognise the latter with a fleeting reference in the last chapter which was nice. The art by Dowling is really strong, in particular the visuals of Verity tapping into her powers as an extension of her creativity somehow managing to be equal parts horrifying and beautiful at the same time.

The collection itself is a nicely bound hardcover with one of Montynero’s covers on the front. Something I particularly enjoyed about the collection was the inclusion of a commentary at the end from Montynero and Mike Dowling for every chapter, giving a nice insight into how the book came about in more detail than I remember seeing in a graphic novel before.

Overall I did really enjoy Death Sentence, even though I sound negative in this review quite a few times. It revels in being over the top and silly, and that is absolutely intended and how it should be read. It is simply a lot of fun, so I recommend everyone pick it up. Check it out in your local comic book shop or a reputable online retailer if you live in some backwater without a comic book shop.

Score:  8 G+ Tests out of 10

 

*That is probably more a failing on my part. I don’t like Superbad because I find Jonah Hill’s character too annoying, or The Inbetweeners because the blonde kid pisses me off too much. I know these characters are supposed to be annoying dicks. That is how they are written and that is what is supposed to be funny about them, but I just can’t get past being too annoyed by them.

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