Guest review by Lisa 'Bathobbit' Hicks
(Who, incidentally, is my rather amazing wife)
Published by Titan Books
By Monty Nero & Mike Dowling
Firstly, I thought that at 36 I was never able to blush again. This book made this happen.
The world we live in is pretty shitty, let’s not pretend it isn’t. The places we grew up in are not the same anymore and the people are pissed off and angry. We use photo editors to make photos look happier and inject a bit of colour into the humdrum daily toll of life or if we feel we just can’t be bothered we grey scale them. Not to put a dampener on anything but we stroll through our daily lives accepting the quiet chaos that is bubbling under the surface. The riots…they were a perfect example of how quickly this country *if any* can erupt when it needs release, benefit streets and closures of N.H.S buildings, changes in government and the degradation of moral values and the respect for a child’s innocence have all piled up into something quite filthy and like a big black shadow its making its way through the cities into out quiet cul-de-sacs and homes.
Comics have turned in that direction over the years addressing all of societies issue and hang ups and those writers and artists with big enough balls to be unpopular and the talent to translate their gripes and observations have been welcomed by the reader who yearns for that dirty realism we crave. I, myself, have found myself wandering the aisles for something that will explode with realistic shit all over my face, I realise that sounded unhygienic but I KNOW you get the picture as I’m sure you found your way here… expecting the same.
I thought about re-reading the same old Dickens worthy hardback graphic novels that seem to be flooding in bulk and then came across a little gem that gripped on to my attention and manifested itself nicely for the ride.
‘Death Sentence’ is published by Titan Comics and written by Monty Nero with Art work by Mike Dowling and lettering by Jimmy Betancourt.
This book highlights all that is wrong with society, governments and indeed the ‘celebrity’ infestation we obsess with. The world is going to shit and we don’t need much imagination for that. Every week we seem to hear about some issue of health that is spreading like wild fire with no known cure or prevention, we still don’t have a correct response to H.I.V . Death Sentence chucks another into the mix, The G+ virus.
The G+ Virus is your clocking out card but man you are going to go in style. I think I might want to go out this way. It’s not pleasant but at least I get to be something different for 6 months! It is a sexually transmitted disease that is rife among the “Britain’s hardest club towns” culture roaming free all over ITV2. Sexual liberation has brought with it some consequences and you have two choices. Sit there and mope…or do something about it.
Once affected you begin to show extra normal abilities and this story follows three quite fucked up main characters all of which are hugely developed and relatable. In my mind I had a vision of who they reminded me of and once there I couldn’t shake it off.
I don’t want to give too much away but the sheer honesty of it all is overwhelming. The first pane is brutal and it’s all up hill from there. I have always felt sorry for the Pete Docherty’s of this world and not so much the Russell Brands *wink* and I saw them slapped all over this. They all have a price to pay for such a shitty use of life and now they are paying it. It’s almost like the devil has come collecting and all those who pished their life away are now being called up to Hell's Gates. You want to like them you really do and you see so much more for them but the layer of self is always quite hard to break through.
Verity. I like her; she has some amaze balls body ink. She is our young heroine *I’m not sure that’s quite the right word, her ex hates her but she is more or less getting on with it with gusto* A graphic designer who has made a stupid mistake. This mistake has led her down the G+ route and gifted her with a little extra kick. The one that can be reasoned with and the one who wants to make a difference, our bit of hope.
Weasel. I wanted to give him a bath but that is the mother in me. A Docherty like character whose record label drops him quite willingly when they could no longer profit through his imminent death. Its not uncommon to see music celebrities misused and ruined by record labels and forced out with a level of popularity that it quite literally backfires morally and mentally. The one thing in life Weasel takes seriously, because let’s face it...he sucks at music, is his son. And this is a redeeming quality.
And let’s move on to our Anti-Hero…Monty *shudder* it has been a long time since I genuinely feared the ‘What if’ of a comic baddie. There are several key points in this project in which I sat open mouthed, the nun…the queen! One truly fucked up life that he doesn’t question as a catalyst only the way he wants to go out. A misguided notion of helping ‘free’ the people reminds me of the current wave of self-obsessed celebrity parading through comic circuits and t.v shows becoming the very thing they say they despise.
Criticising religion and politics and encouraging rebellion and parades of anger, it’s ok to chuck a t.v through a shop window and steal a bag of rice because your only doing what you feel is right! I won’t lie I thought about Russell Brand through all of this and whilst he can write a book dismissing his past because he has visited a guru in India, married a pop star then divorced a pop star all whilst doing some crazy arsed magniloquent Yoga positions is jaw dropping and infuriating. But we listen, we listen and we agree and when he posed the idea that perhaps we should all not vote…I almost found myself agreeing…UP THE ANARCHY!
Let’s face it. We all have thought about what we would do if we have a month to live. I personally would fuck up my works health and safety record of 456 days without an incident. I would then probably run up a bill on a credit card with Mickey Mouse. Chuck a bit of the super power life in with that and oh my god…I would be in heaven. I would choose to make a difference and this book makes me question just what that difference would be? If I had the power to make things better how far would I go and would I care if you disagreed?
The book is littered with great adages to suck you right into the world in which this virus exists the artwork is sublime and the attention to detail is a perfectionists wet dream. The replies, bubbles and dialogue of all characters and extras were spot on, poetic and flagrant. If you’re a screamer or prude then this is not the book for you but if you appreciate a modern comic from a team of modern artists and writers then my god you will love this book as much as me.
My collection is richer for it and my eyes are open wider.