Written by Monty Nero
Art by Mike Dowling
A new sexually transmitted disease has hit the scene. Called “G+” (not the Google social network), its victims are given a life expectancy of six months after diagnosis. In a weird twist of karmic balance, they also get superpowers. I guess if you’re going to go out, go out with a bang.
The first issue of Death Sentence introduces us to three Brits – graphic designer Verity, down and out rocker Weasel, and celebrity Monty – just diagnosed with the G+ virus. They each tackle it in their own ways, from depression to acceptance to even trying to cash in on the public sympathy. Then, the super powers start to kick in, and the British military doesn’t seem too happy with random people developing super powers with not much left to live for.
This is a captivating opening to a world combining the real world anxiety of an STD epidemic with the familiar comic book story of the normal establishment fearing newly superpowered citizens.
In this first issue, we deal with the discovery phase as the characters have just recently learned about their disease. From their reactions and those of supporting characters, it seems akin to that of AIDS in the early ‘90s. The characters’ attitudes feel authentic in how they accept it, especially how they do so in different ways. You feel for Verity as she is dazed with frustration. You pity Weasel as he self destructs. The Monty celebrity character doesn’t get as personal, but he’s the least focused in this issue. More of him will likely come later.
We also start to see the public’s fascination with this disease, as well as the government’s understandable fear of these new superpowers. Demand for Weasel’s music catapults, despite his label hating his music, and his groupies want what he has. The military is shown at the end of the book to be prepping for action, possibly warranted after the emergence of some of the new powers in this book.
It’s easy to make an X-Men comparison to the book, which when created used super powers as a metaphor for the race stigma of the times. In addition to all the heroics of that franchise, those were characters who had to live with being different. These characters don’t even have that luxury. I’m eager to see how the series progresses and deals with imminent mortality and the interactions with their loved ones in what seems to be a grounded world, with the super powers and government conflict staying important but not a central focus.
Good start. Let’s see where we go from here.
This book has a rough and dirty look to it. Some of it really rough with Weasel’s drunken rock sex parties. These aren’t unrealistically pristine and pretty individuals. They look average, which helps ground the title in a believable reality. The action in each scene is fairly easy to follow. Some of the background crowds are a bit crude, but that’s negligible.
The covers, which are actually by the writer, are gorgeous. The Verity on the cover of issue one, and Verity and Weasel on the preview cover for issue 2, have a very three-dimensional look to them, with an excellent job shading and rounding out the designs. Looks like a lot of work though, so it’s understandable not to do that for the interiors. It also looks more poppy than the interiors, so it would probably give the wrong feel for the story.
Overall (Not an Average)
This first issue actually has a bonus five-page guide to making comics by the creator. He goes into learning the rules of storytelling and when to ignore them, coming up with the idea and making it marketable, and even doing character designs as he has done for Death Sentence. The book is strong enough to warrant giving the first issue a read, and the bonus words of wisdom from the author help forge a connection that will make you more invested in what comes later.