We have a special treat for you today. Thanks to Titan Comics we had a chance to read any early copy of Death Sentencewhich isn’t due out for quite some time. Rather than having a bloody battle of words with each other, we team up for a group review on the series. The writers/reviews of Comic Bastards will each give their thoughts on the issue and then give it a score of: Buy, Borrow or Pass. Here’s a blurb about the issue from Titan and then on to the review! That's the dilemma facing three people who've contracted the G+ Virus, a terrifying new STD. What can graphic designer Verity, failing indie guitarist Weasel and roguish media personality Monty do in the time they have left? Fade away - or go out in a blaze of glory? By turns funny, dark, sad and spectacular, Death Sentence is an emotional thrillride through celebrity, loss, passion and creativity. It's the jaw-dropping next stage in super powered storytelling! Packed with unforgettable shocks, quotable dialogue and the character finds of a generation, this is an unmissable debut by two striking and confident new voices!
We all know how the old saying goes: "nobody does brutal and cynical deconstructions of the superhero genre quite like the British". Okay so I made that up but that's what you should from Titan with Death Sentence, although at this early point in the story there's nobody I would call "hero" yet.
With the sexually transmitted superpowers that kill you after 6 months, Death Sentence #1 has a premise that's as startling as it is intriguing and there's promising signs that the series can grow into tackling some of the deeper ideas surrounding mortality that are brought up by the G-Plus concept, as well as throwing down some ultraviolence as the various characters' develop their powers. However, like any comic that's written in the darker traditions of Mark Millar and Garth Ennis, there's a danger that this series might fall into the trap of relying too much on gratuitous shock tactics to be truly special. With all the potential drawbacks in mind, I'm giving this comic a cautious "buy" rating because I feel excited and optimistic about the possibilities Death Sentence has to offer and I think the creative team are doing their jobs well.
The writing is solid, with (mostly) naturalistic dialogue that only once felt forced and I enjoyed the quick pace of this first issue. It's actually quite densely plotted compared to something like Brian Wood's X-Men #1; introducing us to three core characters and establishing the tone of the series very capably, while still finding room for some action amongst it all. I'm not totally enamored with the artwork but its sharp-angled grittiness is absolutely in sync with the grim subject matter and it has a natural dynamism that should lend itself well to the lengthier fighting/superpower sequences we can expect to see in in future issues.
I'd be interested to see if American readers pick up on the British slang words or the names of the locations within London that the story visits (though I guess any Hellblazer fans out there should find themselves in familiar territory). Speaking as a Brit, I'm comfortable in saying that the language, locations and character designs are all suitably authentic for such a deliberately localized comic and I hope that doesn't turn off an international audience.
I’m not sure if this concept - super powers as a terminal STD called G+ (nobody tell Google!) - has ever been done before (to my knowledge, it hasn’t), but I’ll be damned if it isn’t a good one, and I’ll be double-damned if Death Sentence #1 doesn’t do a bang-up job of introducing it. This alternative London, written into life by Monty Nero and drawn up by Mike Dowling, feels seedy, gritty; in a word, real, and the viral threat within it carries a welcome and unique sort of paradox. It begs the question of what you would do, not just if you were going to die in six months, but the powerful ways in which you might live.
The feel of this reminds me a bit of the first season of Heroes, but with a twist that puts a new spin on humanity’s weird love of its own fear of disease. Think of Death Sentence this way: it’s the AIDS epidemic as an X-Men book ... and it’s brilliant. In fact, this felt to me like a very different kind of team-build, one that could band people together based on their respective stages of grief, as much as their power-set, and I’m excited to see how the three main characters will eventually converge. Well-written with (if you’ll pardon the pun) catchy dialogue, and a stern yet coarse artistic style, Death Sentence #1 gets a big fat BUY from me. Double-bag your twanger and jump right into this one - it’s the kind of viral body you will want to pick up.
Here’s the thing, for me Death Sentence is a very cool idea and has tons of potential. Powers and STD, big win! The narrative works and hits a few different strides and keeps your interest as it goes. There are a few nuggets in there that shine as they pull you into the G+Virus laced world. But the real star for me is Mike Dowling’s art. It’s nothing short of fantastic and I fell in love with it instantly. If you were ever on the fence or apprehensive about Titan Comics and their products; take a chance on Death Sentence so you can tell everyone you were there first. You’ll be happy you did.
I was sold on this book just from reading the concept. Short of being murdered there is nothing that will keep me from purchasing this issue upon its release, because it’s that fantastic. The story follows three characters and the great thing is that the three of them couldn’t be more different from one another. The narration switches seamlessly and transports the reader into the mind of the character their following. You can’t help but feel compassion for the character as they deal with the death clock hanging over their head.
Nothing about this issue disappointed me. The art was fantastic and captured all of the emotions that the story was projecting: desperation, depression, sexuality and anger. This creative team was in perfect harmony with each other making it a terrific debut. I’m going to keep my comments short because really you should already be sold on this book.
Score: Buy It... In Fact Pre-Order It!
Writer: Monty Nero
Artist: Michael Dowling
Publisher: Titan Comics
Release Date: 10/9/13