Death Sentence #1-2

Death Sentence #1 cover

written by Monty Nero
art by Mike Dowling

Titan Comics is actively plugging this six-issue miniseries as original (as can be seen by the cover blurbs), but I found it intriguing because it was a modern take on the Strikeforce: Morituri concept: you get superpowers, but that acquisition drastically shortens your life.

Death Sentence #1 cover

In this case, there’s a G+ virus, sexually transmitted, that gives you abilities and six months to live. The big difference with Strikeforce: Morituri is that that series was about kids turned into soldiers, with a sense of duty and sacrifice in trying to save the world; here, it’s all about the celebrity. And that’s what makes it relevant, even if much of it is predictable and other bits are trying too hard to be shocking. Today’s kids are either chasing fame or struggling, in a connected world where everyone aims to be known, with not having it.

Weasel is a dissolute, untalented rock star. (He’s the shirtless one with the aviator helmet on cover #2.) Monty is basically Russell Brand, in appearance, attitude, and irreverance. Verity is the girl, who thankfully does not always dress like the cover (although maybe it explains why her boss hits on her, if she can’t figure out how to cover her lingerie for the work day). Weasel gets powers like Kitty Pryde’s, the ability to pass through objects. Verity becomes explosive. Monty’s abilities involve persuasion.

The first issue starts with fantasies: Verity tells off her sexist slob boss. Weasel has an orgy. Monty sleeps with a nun. Then comes the paranoia, as a military crew attempts to apprehend the more powerful sufferers in issue #2. That chapter’s all about the bad side of these abilities, with Verity being hunted by what looks like a SWAT team and Weasel not paying attention to his effect on others with tragic results.

Death Sentence #2 cover

The art is energetic and full of emotion, well-suited to the overheated events. There’s a certain amount of “we’re an indy, we can show naked body parts and bad words!” approach to the storytelling, but I admit, I’m curious to see where this all goes. We’ve seen several attempts at treating superheroes as celebrities (to name a few, The Intimates, WildGuard, America’s Got Powers), but they usually come at it from the costumed heroes side of things. This fits firmly into the current trend of superpowers being a curse, of ruining lives instead of improving them, but by leaving out the costumes, the series feels more current.

I’m suspecting that, by the end of the miniseries, we won’t have gained any great insights into human nature; instead, we’ll spend six months wallowing in depravity and watching the creators working hard to be “rock’n’roll, man!” (Horned fingers gesture here.) Still, that can be entertaining. Superheroes are a juvenile genre, at root, and this is a modern take on adolescent suffering, with a strong layer of “what would you do if you only had six months left to live?”

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