Rating: 5/5 – Ultimate Power with an Ultimate Price Tag.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Al Sparrow.
The conundrum is simple: I can’t afford to buy every comic I see, and even if I could, I’d lack the time to sit and enjoy them. So when I sit down each month to plan out what I’m going to buy, I tend to pick one or two independent comic publishers (the ones in the small print sections of your Previews catalog) and buy from them almost exclusively. It’s great because some of the best books I’ve read have come from following this practice, but it’s also awful because I seem to be the kiss of death for any company I start following. Alias? Yeah, that was me. GG Studios? Guilty (although they’re still producing books across the pond from us). It’s for this reason I stay away from companies like Big Dog, because I know some of the people who work for them and want them to stay in business! If Moonstone goes under, you can blame me. That said, of late I’ve been following Titan Comics, and it seems like a safe bet because they’ve been around for a long time, and should (hopefully) be immune to whatever curse I bring to the table.
And I really hope that’s the case, because books like Death Sentence are the reason I buy comics. Bob has already reviewed issues 1 and 2, but now that the series is complete and collected in a beautiful hardcover with a slew of extras, I thought it would be a good idea to revisit a book that may have flown below your radar. The sexually transmitted disease G+ grants its victims amazing powers, but kills them in six months. The book follows the lives of three infected characters – artistic sellout Verity, down-and-out rocker Weasel, and the Russell Brand like Monty – on their individual spirals, both upward and downward, toward the eventual end.
I’ve often felt life should come with a warning. That it’d be nice if someone would come by and tell you in six months you’re going to die and there’s really nothing you can do about it. What would you do in that time? Tie up old ends? Rekindle friendships and patch up old animosities? Make sure those who’ll live on are provided for? Rage, rage against the dying of the light? This book throws this concept right at the reader, with the added incentive that for those six months, you might have the ability to do something about it.
For Monty, the goal is to experience life at its fullest, and the rest of the world be damned. For Weasel, it’s reconciliation with his estranged child, and perhaps to go out on the biggest heroin bender ever. The real summation of the book’s message, though, comes from Verity, who realizes throughout the book that her best work – that unknown masterpiece that lies in the churning belly of every creative person on this planet – may never be realized. “I just want to do something exceptional, before I go. A tiny piece of me, resonating across the world, that says: ‘Here I am!’ I mean something. I count!”
In true comic fashion, these three lives become intertwined by the conclusion, which needs to be experienced to be truly appreciated. Writer Monty Nero, who annoys me to no end because this is apparently his first comic work and he knocked it out of the park, creates anti-heroes you still want to cheer for, villains you can almost see yourself becoming if you aren’t careful, and a surrounding cast of people who are far from perfect creations, but very much people you know. In short, he creates real people in a very surreal landscape. Mike Dowling’s raw and gritty artwork provides the perfect illustrative vehicle for Nero’s words. Verity isn’t a smoothly rendered piece of pop-art fluff. She has an edge to her, and Dowling helps bring that to the table. Weasel’s debauchery and Monty’s charming vileness are also served well by his work.
In what I’ve come to expect and appreciate from Titan, this book is a bountiful collection of extras, from a gallery of all the variant covers that followed the series, to a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of the process in a series of conversations between Nero and Dowling. Think of it as a “commentary track” on the DVD of the book, were it to exist. Although the book sticks the landing well in its ending (and kudos to Nero for giving us that), I’m heartened by two things: The presence of a Vol. 1 on the spine of the book, and Nero’s final words at the end of the book: “I hope people enjoyed it, and I hope we get to do it again.” Both of which point to the idea that there may be more from this duo, and perhaps more stories to come out of this world they’ve created. I can only hope this is the case.
Reviewed by: Al Sparrow
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