Debuting this October from Titan Comics is the six issue mini series “Death Sentence” by writer Monty Nero and artist Mike Dowling. With a premise of “Strikeforce Morituri” meets “Rent”, this is a series which revolves around a dangerous STD and three of the people it infects in the U.K. Much as with the debut issue, Titan Comics has provided this column with an exclusive advance preview, as the second issue doesn’t hit digital or brick-and-mortar shops until November 13th.
Picking from where the opening issue left off, the second issue of “Death Sentence” continues with the trials and tribulations of three British citizens who have contracted the “G-Plus” virus, an STD which kills within six months but until then bestows superhuman powers to those it infects. The main characters continue to be poet Verity Flett and musician Daniel “Weasel” Waissel. There is a third character, oversexed comedian David “Monty” Montgomery, although he is more of a reoccurring side character at this stage of the story. Flett’s powers manifested as an explosive burst of energy in at the Royal London Hospital; now she is a semi-intangible energy being on the run from homeland security, which seems intent on “vanishing” her. Daniel seems to make strides to make something of his musical career before he dies, until he suffers a series of tragedies – his ex refuses to allow him to see his son, and yet another sexual escapade goes horribly wrong due to his powers. Thus, Flett finds herself planted on a mysterious island in the middle of the ocean, while Daniel finds himself on the run from the authorities.
The three main characters continue to be acting independent of each other, although one can see some bonds of commonality forming. All three have run afoul of the law, which seems to be keeping tabs on those infected with the “G-Plus” virus via a top secret agency which seems to exist in most science fiction adventures. Monty’s powers are finally revealed, and he seems to have the power to control minds – although as this isn’t a superhero comic, he uses it to avoid arrest or assist in sexual conquests rather than world domination. Dowling’s artwork continues to be realistic enough to suit the mostly “real world” tones of the series, without seeming so “photo-realistic” that super powered action seems out of place. Americans seeking to compare Dowling’s style could find some similarities with Khoi Pham (“Incredible Hercules”, “Scarlet Spider”), although Dowling has a better grasp of anatomy and stronger line work. A sequence in which Flett takes on a tactical assault team from a diner to the streets is easily a visual highlight of the issue.
Nero has a flair for dialogue which often involves a lot of curse words and blunt talk regarding sex, body parts and often crude humor. It works on a visceral level and it makes the characters sound closer to people that readers may actually know as opposed to Captain America or Union Jack. Weasel’s pilot had and scarf do wonders to give him a distinct look without a superhero costume, and both he and Flett sport some gnarly tattoos. While there is one scene of considerably gore in this issue, it does convey the horror of being afflicted with the “G-Plus” virus. It is no surprise that writer Mark Millar has offered favorable quotes for this series, as Nero has a similar flair for using some juvenile humor and blunt expression to further along an interesting science fiction premise.
Much as with the debut issue, “Death Sentence” may not be for the faint of heart. It has some amount of gore (although perhaps less than some “Batman” comics) and enough foul language to make a sailor blush. Unlike many stories involving STD’s, it avoids lecturing to the audience or seeming to hammer home an abstinence agenda (or any “quick fix” solution), which is quite appreciated. While the humor could turn off some Puritanical readers, behind it is an interesting twist on the super-powered “every man/every woman” story. Two issues in and it is difficult to guess which twist the story will take, which is also rarer than it should be.