They always used to say that women can relate better to men than men can to women, which is why so many of those coming-of-age films used to focused on boys' lives. I have no idea if it's true or not, but I never paid much attention to the gender of the people I liked in comic books and films, often gravitating towards the brusque and embittered even though most of those hard-bitten loners were usually men. It never occurred to me that I was hungry for a comic book about someone like me, until I heard about Death Sentence by Monty Nero and Mike Dowling, published by Titan Comics.
The synopsis introduces three people, diagnosed with a terminal illness (the "G+ Virus", which I'm pretty sure they wrote before Google Plus came out and naturally has nothing to do with it, but it amusing because it means that the name sounds plausible, but I digress...). With six months to live, the disease gives people super powers. So what powers will they develop, what will they do with those last months, what are the people around them going to do, and (worryingly) what are the government doing?
I glanced at the cover and noticed that the first person portrayed was "Verity", the graphic designer who we witness despondently learning that she's contracted the virus. While the loser indie guitarist and thinly veiled Russell Brand-type comedian are introduced in their own phases of dealing with the virus, they provide a little less personal entertainment for me, and acted more as an interesting backdrop to the story being roughly sketched out for Verity (but maybe men with band fantasies or sexually frustrated comedians will gravitate towards those two blokes instead).
The story starts strong which is promising since first issues are always tricky; there are so many aspects of the world, plot, and characters to introduce that it can feel labored and the story can get left behind. Luckily, Death Sentence manages to do very well, organically packing a lot of information into a small space and getting the story moving along nicely too. Every woman who's ever worked in an office has had fantasies of walking out and telling the sexist boss to shove his job, so it is predictably good fun to watch Verity make that her first stop upon leaving her doctor. The scene might have been expected and a little over-the-top (hints of the weakest scenes from Millar's Wanted were there), but unlike Wanted it wasn't the crux of the story but just a single page of harmless wish fulfillment on the way to getting down to the nitty gritty of Verity's journey. It gave us insight into her situation, as we see all of the main characters gradually cutting ties with their old lives and experiencing an uncertain (if short) future.
Death Sentence has so many of the ingredients for a good comic book (and when I say "good", I mean one I will enjoy, let's be realistic here) that I had to like it;
- I've already said that I love it that one of the main character's, Verity, is a woman with the same job as me, but she also has the same haircut as me and is living in the same neighborhood I used to in London.
- She's going to develop super powers and will die soon so she has an incredibly satisfying "fuck it" attitude.
- The other two main, male characters are both so extreme and sexually charged that (for a change) the slutty sexpost characters can be the guys, which makes a pleasant change.
- The art looks the bastard offspring of Sean Phillips, Francavilla, and Jock, which is great. Beautiful, dirty coloring too, none of that nasty air-brushed rubbish that's so common nowadays. Tons of energy.
- Immediately the characters are fun. As extreme as it is, their dialogue feels natural and right, we know them.
- This story is set in London. It is drawn, written, and even published by a British company, so people talk very differently and behave very differently than they do in American comic books, which again, is a pleasant change.
With all of that going for it, this is a comic worth picking up. Death Sentence is a 6 issue series, with issue #1 available in October 2013. You'll want to order it from your stores next month so that they can put the orders in, because otherwise they might not get any and then you'll be so disappointed. Now I don't usually recommend books before they come out, because it makes it hard for people to remember them when they're finally in shops, but I've noticed that a lot of the comic shops I like can't order many copies of books from publishers outside of the big two, so pre-orders are more important for those books. Death Sentence looks good, it's different, sexy, funny, dark, mature, and I think it could stand to have some healthy pre-orders to get things started, so if this sounds fun to you, ask your comic shop to order it (it'll be in the June issue of Previews).
Meanwhile, here's a little trailer for it to give you a taste of what to expect....