"Death Sentence" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Titan Comics
Originally published as Death Sentence #1 - #6
Written by Monty Nero
Illustrated by Mike Dowling
2014, 192 Pages
Graphic Novel released on June 25th, 2014
With the current super hero craze, I'm sure there are millions of people in the world that would do nearly anything to get super powers. What if you could gain abilities like flight or super strength by having unprotected sex? That's where Death Sentence starts. The G+ Virus (not to be confused with Google's ghost town of a social network) is an STD that gives the afflicted superhuman abilities. Unfortunately it's fatal, killing the infected in six months.
This presents all sorts of problems. There are some people that are purposefully trying to get the virus which can have an effect on population growth. I guess one could argue that this would be survival of the fittest because only the idiots are going to be doing this and we don't want them breeding. The infected have nothing to lose, so they can be dangerous. If you have six months to live and you've just been given the ability to phase through solid matter, why would you obey the law? Why not go rob banks or peek in the girls locker room?
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Death Sentence focuses on three people that have been infected with the G+ Virus at around the same time. The virus has been evolving and the trio possess powers far greater than anything ever previously recorded. Verity is a timid artist that sees this as an opportunity before her powers prove to be explosive and dangerous. Weasel is a washed up rock star with the phasing power of Kitty Pryde. Monty is a crude comedian presented with physic abilities, allowing him to make people do anything he wants them to do. They end up on a collision course as Monty takes over London, with his sphere of influence growing as his time runs out. What was that saying about absolute power?
Monty's actions often feel as if they were put in for shock value. He bangs a woman while her head is in a toilet. He pees in a teapot. Even after he rises to power, it's difficult to take him seriously as a villain. When he doesn't like someone, he just makes their head explode. That was cool the first time it shows up, but it gets old after seeing dozens of blown up noggins in these pages.
For some reason, the government decides that the best way for Verity and Weasel to tap into their powers is by getting them really high. Wasn't that the plot behind The Men Who Stare at Goats? This part of the comic feels rushed and thrown together, like a montage to show how the two of them are learning to use, control, and enhance their powers. The G+ Virus also makes you more creative, which results in an outpouring of music and art tying into the drugs a bit too, I guess.
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Death Sentence attempts to explore some psychological and existential themes but comes off feeling like an annoying hipster. The characters are searching for some sort of meaning for their lives, especially when they're blessed / cursed with these super powers. Instead, it feels like they're just a few kids who are looking for an excuse to get high and screw around.
The world of Death Sentence appears fairly normal on the surface thanks to Mike Dowling's artwork. It's hard to believe that there are people that are capable of superhuman abilities where everything looks like it is in everyday life. Dowling really excels when those powers kick in. The world is flipped upside down and things get scary. This is especially true of Verity. As she's an artist, she often uses her powers visually, creating massive floating skulls, knives, and more. It's like something out of an H.P. Lovecraft book.
Author Monty Nero provided the artwork for the chapter breaks and cover of the graphic novel. These are downright gorgeous, featuring the main characters in a painted style in a variety of poses. While they can be a bit repetitive, they look great and are a welcome addition to the book.
Death Sentence has a great idea at its core, but flops around with the philosophy babble. I probably sound like an ignorant super hero fan that just wants to see one big dude punch another big dude. I'm not saying that comics can't have a deeper meaning; it's just something that needs to be handled with some finesse. There's something here about art and life and the legacy we leave behind, but it's hard to get the message through the comic.