Interview: Monty Nero Talks About Death Sentence: London

Note: This interview wasn't conducted by Comic Bastards.

Death Sentence London is in bookshops 19th April - a graphic novel about Verity Fette, aka Artgirl, uncovering a conspiracy at the heart of the British government. Meanwhile she's coming to terms with contracting G-plus - an STD which'll kill her in six months while enhancing her abilities. Series co-creator and writer Monty Nero tells us more, 

Monty NeroHi, Monty. So what’s Death Sentence London all about?

Well at its simplest it’s about an STD that kills you in six months while making you great at doing whatever you love. In Verity’s case that’s art, so she’s learning to manipulate imagery with her mind. And as she’s getting to grips with that she’s hunted down because of what she’s discovered about London’s Mayor Tony Bronson.

Who else is in the story?

It focuses more on women this time. I like to focus on things I haven’t seen before in comics and there aren’t that many writers that have portrayed realistic women well – with a few notable exceptions - so there’s lots of fresh snow to explore there.

Verity’s based on a few people I’ve known. She’s passionate about art but she’s frustrated by how to realize her vision. She’ll do the right thing, but only when she has to ‘cause she basically wants to get on with her life.  I think we all know people like that.

Then there’s a new character, Roots, who’s hustling to survive. Contracting G-plus gives her the power to change her life, initially by extending her drug dealing operation at the expense of other gangs. Which brings her into conflict with Retch, a gangster who rots whatever he touches. He articulates that dispossessed and bitter inner city feeling. It all culminates in an explosive gang war and rioting on the streets.

Verity left and Roots right

Rioting seems to be a theme throughout Death Sentence. How do the two books tie together?

Well they’re both self-contained, while developing the same themes and characters. So you can pick either up or read them together and be happy. While Mike Dowling was drawing the riots in the first story, the London riots erupted around him in Hackney. He was living above a shop, and he was sleeping with his shoes on ready to bolt if it got firebombed so I followed it all extra closely through him. And the riot in Death Sentence London explodes just as the Mark Duggan riot did, except in our case its Mary Duncan who gets shot.

This is a decade of rioting and civil disobedience worldwide, whether it’s the Arab Spring, Ferguson, Occupy, Ukraine. Social media has given ordinary people a way to mobilize and express their anger. Governments are spooked by that, increasing surveillance and militarizing the police. It’s a very dangerous situation and our liberty is at stake – so it couldn’t be more urgent.  The issue of power and the state, the rights of the individual over the rights of government, runs through the heart of the book.

You’ve got another new character, Jeb Mulgrew and a brand new artist in Martin Simmonds. Why’s that?

Mike and I both got work from American publishers after the first book, and while I still have time to write Death Sentence scripts the art is more labor intensive so Mike can’t do two series at once. Martin is someone whose work I’d admired for a long time, with a similar gritty realistic style, so we thought he was the perfect guy to take over. He’s taken characters like Verity to another level and done some astounding pages.

Jeb’s an undercover agent sent by the Americans to find out more about the G-plus virus. He goes to the Island where they’re researching a cure and it becomes a kind of surreal and nerve jangling thriller at that point. On a technical level Jeb’s new to Death Sentence, so first time readers learn about the world as he does.

Thanks Monty. Death Sentence is in bookshops April 19th - 160 pages for £14.99/$19.99 from Titan Comics.