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Have a skull popping good time with "Death Sentence #3" from Titan Comics

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Death Sentence #3

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If it seems like it has been a while between reviews of this six issue mini series from U.K. based Titan Comics, that's only because it has. While this series hit the U.S. shores in October (just in time for the New York Comic Con), preview issues were released to various outlets and columns (such as this one) back in the summer. The series has seen success on this side of the pond, as both of the first two issues have been reprinted with new covers to meet American demand. To wit, this week not only saw the reprint of the second issue, but also the American debut of the third.

Writer Monty Nero and artist Mike Dowling have crafted their own contemporary science fiction parable around the lives of three different people. In a world in which the "G-Plus" virus is the most dangerous STD due to granting super powers to its victims before their deaths, the lives of three become drastically different once they become positives for this dangerous disease. Artist Verity Fette developed explosive and corrosive powers before finding herself quickly apprehended by the military and shuttled off to a top secret island compound. Down and mostly out musician Danny "Weasel" Waissell flushes what is left of his career when his intangibility power causes him to accidentally kill a groupie. And finally, raunchy comedian David "Monty" Montgomery is living his last months fulfilling all of his perverted desires - a task made easier with his new found ability to dominate the minds of others.

The issue manages to divide time between its stars evenly, but devotes the lion's share of focus on Monty; a wise move since Monty had gotten the shorter end of the focal stick in the series' first two issues. The result of a broken home and an exhibitionist mother, Monty's career as a comedian seemed to reward him the more he pushed taboos and catered to the lowest denominators of human behavior, which have turned him into a self indulging egomaniac. When not even sex with a nun is considered sacred anymore, Monty takes things to a whole new level when he attends a royal charity affair and uses his powers to literally kill the queen of England and attempt to claim the throne for himself. Meanwhile, Weasel uses his last time as a free man to try to see his son before running afoul of the authorities and their mechanized attack vehicles, while Verity learns more about the island and that it could be her last chance at a cure, whether she likes it or not.

Monty could seem to be a metaphor for this series itself, which pushes the taboos of many comics itself. The language is often quite mature and if this were a film it would be a hard "R" rating, easily. While Verity and even Weasel can be seen as more tragic figures, Monty comes the closest that this series has to a villain, indulging in every crude fantasy and whim that he has for little other reason than he can, and that he's terminally ill. If Weasel and Verity are more reactive participants to their viral infections, Monty is exploiting it to empower himself as much as he can, regardless of consequences. The action sequence between Weasel and the authorities is quite thrilling, and Verity acts as a point of view character for some exposition about how a top secret government facility seeks to get a handle on this very dangerous STD and the ever expanding number of victims it has - who can do scores of damage before they die if left unchecked, as Monty surely proves. Naturally, the question becomes whether quarantine is the answer, or itself an overreaction. As always, the art by Dowling is great, capturing a "photo realistic" style which grounds the series in plenty of reality, but not so much so that the four-legged mechanical tanks seem too out of place within this world. Nero naturally has quite a voice for his characters, and seems to enjoy using the F-word in dialogue quite often.

At its core this series straddles the line between science fiction and dark comedy, as it merges the premises of "Strikeforce Morituri" and "Rent" with a dash of "X-Men" thrown in. This certainly is an acquired taste of a comic, but those aboard for the ride are left with one which is far from predictable and isn't afraid to take things to full and often graphic conclusions. There's no telling how the next three issues will end, which is exactly as it should be.

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