Hitting comic book shops this week from across the pond is "Death Sentence #4", the penultimate issue of the imaginative new mini series by Monty Nero and artist Mike Dowling, published by Titan Comics. And as is typical of most penultimate issues, it spends a great bulk of time having its plot threads intersect as the climax is built up for the next and final installment. A unique premise as well as a story where anything can happen due to this not being a "big two" crossover event leaves the stakes high and the levels of absurdity and violence ever increasing as things come to ultimate conclusions.
Set in a world where the "G-Plus" sexually transmitted virus grants victims extraordinary super powers before ultimately killing them within six months, this series sought to bring this concept to a personal level by focusing on three such victims. Verity Fette was an artist who gained corrosive and combustible abilities, while Danny "Weasel" Waissell was a drugged out rocker with intangibility powers. The third was David "Monty" Montgomery, a raunchy stand up comedian and hedonist who seemed to gain the deadliest power of all - the ability to control the minds and actions of others. Both Verity and Weasel wound up gaining the attention of top secret military authorities designed to round up "G-Plus" victims and ferry them away to a top secret island location where they can be kept apart from the population and their abilities exploited. Monty, however, has been driven completely mad by his psychic powers and used them to butcher the royal family and take control of Great Britain.
This issue is split between the island and the anarchy which is spreading across London. Verity and Weasel finally meet as their new masters on the island begin to phase them into a program designed to maximize their potential. Apparently, while there is no cure for "G-Plus", their powers and creativity will increase the closer they get to death, and it seems that creating new pathways in their brains via learning and creating art is literally key to controlling their full abilities. While Verity and Weasel do this via heavily controlled experimental facilities, Monty does this by hosting the mother of all orgies while within what is left of Buckingham Palace. All military attempts to destroy him have failed and Monty has plunged the entire nation into chaos in the name of "freedom". Meanwhile, excessive painting has seemed to unlock Verity's true potential, and it seems clear that she (and Weasel) may be the only means of defeating Monty before he brings down all of Britain with him.
The artwork by Dowling continues to match its usual standard for the series. It is "realistic" enough that images of extreme violence remain disturbing, but not so much so that fantastic elements such as robots seem out of place or that some exaggeration of his figures still works. Monty's bizarre sense of humor works well to make him an engaging villain even as he continues to spiral off the deep end. It was about time that Verity and Weasel met up and the pair's interactions go about as one would expect. All three are artists of different disciplines and this story taps into the desire of almost all artists to reach immortality and expression through their craft. As Monty's craft was pushing the boundaries of taboo with comedy, it makes a degree of tragic sense that given enough power he would stretch that into megalomania. Verity's desire to create on canvas serves as a good counter to Monty, at least in theory. A confrontation is inevitable for the final issue, and the stakes couldn't be higher.
This has been a surprising series from Titan Comics - violent, funny, laden with mature content and always unpredictable. The grand finale next month is eagerly anticipated.