Tony Fyler gets cool.
Who’s the coolest superhero you’ve ever seen? Sure, yeah, Batman’s got his intense growly shtick, Spidey’s a wise-cracking geekbrother, and Deadpool’s just an irresistible smartass. Some of you know I have a real soft spot for Supergran, who could probably kick all their asses before tea-time.
But you’re gonna need to clear a space on the podium of cool-as-fuck. There’s a new girl in town.
Now, MontyNero and Simmonds, the team behind Death Sentence London, have already proved they’re no slouches in the cool-as-fuck Olympics. After all, they’ve brought us the ongoing adventures of Verity Fette, Art Girl and oh hellyeah, she gets her game well and truly on in this issue of what our friends at Buzzfeed accurately call ‘The Best British Comic In Years.’ Which, when you think that we left her at the end of the last issue with FBI weapons trained on her brains, is just as well. Verity’s escape here is the kind of thing that would happen if Tarantino picked up Disney’s Snow White in a dingy South London bar and taught her bluebirds how to sing.
But believe it or not, the new queen of cool-as-fuck is not Verity Fette.
That’d be Roots you’re thinking of.
The whole premise of Death Sentence and Death Sentence London is that G+, the STD that stays dormant till you have about six months to live, enhances you somehow for those last six months. There are normal G+s, who might just find they’re just suddenly able to play Rachmaninov after years of not being able to get through Chopsticks. Then there are Super-Gs – like Monty, the psychotic stand-up comedian who killed…well let’s just say most people, in the original Death Sentence, and Verity and Weasel our two sort-of heroes, who can each do their own range of things – Weasel is on-again, off-again with solidity, and Verity’s in an ‘It’s Complicated’ relationship with visibility. Roots grows weed. She’s always grown weed. Now though, she grows weed, at a thought, and keyed to her desires – bloke trapped in a burning building? Let me Jack your ass down my giant weedstalk. Threatening defenceless people? Here, let me choke the living shit out of you with my weeds of justice. Roots is sickened by the chaos engulfing her streets, as people burn their own neighbourhoods to the ground, and she’s determined to make a stand, but she doesn’t have it all her own way – she has an accidental arch-nemesis and they come to blows at the end of this issue, in a way that feels very ecologically metaphorical – when life and death play for a planet, who survives to the next issue?
Roots and her nemesis Retch are proof that MontyNero and Simmonds aren’t afraid to continually innovate with the ‘geeky’ side of their storyline, the bit with superheroes and supervillains in. And if you’re going to innovate, why not innovate in a way that’s cool-as-fuck? Did you catch the part where Roots is a kind of Poison Ivy, but with weed?
But having spent much of the last two issues focusing on Weasel and Verity, allowing their personalities and emotions to catch up with the pace of all the Death Sentence Action, is this a third instalment in a row where the main spotlight is on a Super-G? No, very much not – the simmering storylines that have been seeded in the last three issues are starting to bubble – the riots on the streets of London erupt again, Jeb Mulgrew, FBI guy with a mission to infiltrate “The Island” where British researchers are looking for a G+ cure crashes out on his buddy’s couch before setting off. Journo Peter Fincham still has information that could scupper London Mayor Tony Bronson’s rise to power, and in this issue, Fincham and Verity make plans to connect their dots. Bronson and another Conservative politician, Michael Degraves, are fighting for control of the leading party – and therefore ostensibly government of the country. And in particular in this issue, there’s a juxtaposition that will either feel like an homage to some of the great violent movies in history, or, jusssst possibly, might strike some readers as a little passe, as a riot progresses in London while Mayor Bronson is busy engaging in some S&M beating. It worked for me – in fact, while the allusion’s wrong, I went to A Clockwork Orange in my head when I read it – but I can just about see why some readers might not think it stands up to the standards of innovation elsewhere in Death Sentence, and indeed elsewhere in this issue.
The issue ends by promising that the next instalment sees things go total crazy, and that’s certainly the emotional pitch it brings us to – a finely-tuned fiddle-string of ‘fuckyeah!’ just waiting to see what comes next. All the storylines are advanced to what is pretty much the point where you can see things going crazy from here, so – no pressure on issue #5 then.
Artistically speaking, there are plenty of highlights here – Verity’s Tarantino Snow White fight, (which also has a touch of Sherlock about it) is a joy, and, seriously, did you catch the bit where there’s a Super-G who controls weed plants? That makes for plenty of street wisecracking as well as quite a few very visually impressive scenes, and the battle between Roots and Retch here channels a visceral clawing-and-biting fight for survival into its strained sinews, delivering that thing all the great cliff-hangers do – a kind of “Nooooooo!” reaction that begs for just one more page to see how this turns out. While the subject matter’s less enticing, you’ve got to give credit to Simmonds’ capturing of Mulgrew’s drunken, rambling, spittle-flecked fall into unconsciousness too – one of the best film reviews I’ve ever read said that you could ‘smell Nicholas Cage’s drunken character coming off the screen in Leaving Las Vegas.’ That’s the territory we’re in here with Simmonds’ Mulgrew – you might catch yourself not breathing in too hard as you read those panels. And similarly, don’t read the panels of Mayor Bronson’s sex games while eating, if you ever want to eat again. Or have sex again. Or think of anything else, ever again. Brit-readers will go straight to the most obvious parallel, with our own London Mayor. American readers, I’m going to leave you with just four words: Fifty Shades Of Trump.
Sometimes, just sometimes, I hate what really good comic-book art does to my brain.
And now, so do you.
What are you hanging about here for? Death Sentence London #4 is in stores now, waiting for you. Go get it!
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