Tony Fyler drives a tank to your funeral.
Death Sentence is one of our least guilty favourites here at WarpedFactor. A delicious gritty funny dark comic-book that’s up to its nipples in life and death and art and meaning, when a Death Sentence issue drops into your inbox or through your letterbox, you know it’s gonna be a good day.
Issue 2.2 is no exception, carrying the post-Apocalyptic feeling of 2.1 forward. In the world of Death Sentence, the newest sexually-transmitted disease is G+, which sleeps inside you, undetected and self-protecting, until you have about six months to live. Then it makes your potential accessible – some have tremendous or terrifying powers, some simply have their existing power as a human being turned up to 11. But then, within half a year – you die.
The first Death Sentence arc was very much pre- and –right-the-hell-now-Apocalyptic, as Monty, a stand-up comedian somewhere between Russell Brand and the Joker got all Super-G, with horrendous powers over human minds and bodies, over space and matter. He killed thousands, if not millions, during a brief reign as king of England, and sank the British Navy in to the bargain (seriously, if you haven’t read Death Sentence 1 and this doesn’t make you want to, I don’t know what to say to you). He was eventually killed by Weasel (a washed-up, drugged-up, punk-rock wannabe-god) and Verity, (an art school dreamer and dead-end creative with aspirations to self-expression), both of whom had gone Super-G too at more or less the same time.
Death Sentence 2, so far, has been about how the hell you claw society back from something as insane as that – and what the existence of G+ and Super-G people means. There’s a Johnson-esque London Mayor (and yes, incidentally, it gives me quite a lot of pleasure pleasure to think this will be read outside of the UK, because yes, we have a Johnson as London Mayor), clamping down, imposing curfews and martial law, and in 2.2, going further in terms of enforcing ‘family values’ and clamping down on reckless sex for the unmarried. In Texas, Jeb Mulgrew, an FBI agent who’s been on an undercover mission for years returns to his family, only to find hostility, resentment and a difficult process of re-integration. Now Mulgrew is briefed on a new mission, allowing him to escape the difficulties of a home life that’s moved on without him.
In Death Sentence 1, a strand of the storytelling dealt with a secret British project to develop a cure for G+ on an island – both Verity and Weasel were taken there, and given some basic training before being sent into battle against Monty and his excesses. Mulgrew’s escape-mission here is pretty straightforward – go steal the cure.
But most of Death Sentence 2.2 is consumed with what felt mostly missing from 2.1 – Weasel’s grief for the young son who was his shining beacon, the only thing in his life he managed to do almost right, and who was one of many sons and daughters who died at Monty’s whim.
That felt like a missing beat in 2.1, and 2.2 makes up for it essentially by making the case that it wasn’t missing, thank you very much, it was just getting in a storytelling line. Weasel takes the easy option first – throwing himself into sex and drugs and rock and roll, or what he called ‘the eternal want,’ to try and push his memories of his son down and away, but as is often the way, it’s Weasel himself that’s pushed down and away into despondency and despair, and he swims back up to a reunite with the mother of his son in a necessary explosion of sobbing and pain. However, at the memorial service for the boy, Weasel rips away the Band-Aid consolations of faith from the crowd in a typical, raw, honest, insensitive way, driving a not-entirely-metaphorical tank over other people’s emotions in the howling need to express his own
There’s story strand development in issue 2.2 too, beyond Weasel and Jeb Mulgrew. As the London Mayor’s attempts to contain the looting, apocalyptic partying and the silent spread of G+ through the crowd become more and more draconian in nature, a resistance movement is growing, a combination of Occupy and Anonymous – members of the ‘Invasion’ movement wearing facemasks inspired by a comic-book alien. In one of Death Sentence’s signature moves, this crucial bit of backstory is delivered via a rendering of a real-world document, in this case an interview in the Guardian newspaper with the author who first wrote the adventures of ‘Ex’ – a kind of alien Robin Hood.
The style of Death Sentence keeps coming on and coming on, delivering the grit and the laughter fans expect of it, and still developing, expanding the world against which the story of its cataclysm is told. In other, shorter, less pretentious words, just when you thought it must surely have peaked, it calmly drives its own tank over your expectations and get better and better.
Is there as much world-destroying in this issue as in others? No. This is Death Sentence taking a breath to be full of real human beings – scared, fragile, raucous, bullet-headed, stupid, wonderful human beings. It’s no less superb because of that, and it leaves you feeling a little raw around the edges, perhaps a little snappier than you’d like, because it takes you on a journey down beneath the surface of the skin of our stupid species, and dances on your nerves and your certainties.
Let it. It’s worth it. Get Death Sentence 2.2 and let it move you.
Tony Fyler lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly
nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who,
Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the
70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By
runs an editing house, largely as an
excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book.
With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at FylerWrites.co.uk