Tony Fyler goes into battle.
In any epic battle across human history, there is a lot of hurry up and wait. A lot of itchy, tense hanging about while pieces are manoeuvred into place, ready to be of maximum use to one side or the other. Death Sentence London has been turning up its screws for a couple of issues now, getting the right people into the right places.
You might want to put your crash helmets on – shit just got real.
This issue opens up with Jeb Mulgrew, our undercover FBI man, arriving on The Island (the remote, supposedly secret base where G+ research is done to try and find either a cure or at least a new way of dealing with the disease). He’s inducted, and gets to learn some of what they do there.
Meanwhile, in Brixton, Roots, the Super-G with an aptitude for horticulture has been trying to keep things together and defend her patch, after seemingly defeating and destroying her arch-rival, fellow Super-G Retch, whose Super-G skill is rotting to death everything he touches. Gosh, but he was popular at parties.
When Roots and Retch had their epic battle it seemed to make an optimistic kind of sense that Roots would win – after all, the disease has put her at one with Nature itself, and no matter what else happens, Nature always rises again. The trouble with that logic of course is that you can’t kill death itself, either. You can get scientific about it if you like – the forces of energy and entropy at permanent war and more or less permanent balance. You can get metaphysical if you prefer – life and death, yin and yang, good and evil – these two are very primal, potent representations of the fundamental forces in the universe. And neither of them can entirely defeat the other.
Cue the resurrection of Retch, Death rising from a makeshift grave, with if not mischief, then a quest for some meaning on his mind. He declares that the city will know the pain that he and his gang are feeling, and heads off into the so-called ‘Battle of Brixton’ – which has almost evolved into a kind of post-apocalyptic Woodstock, with a bit of a Rage Against The Machine, Fuck The Police vibe stirred in. The ‘Invaders’ – the gang of alien-masked vigilantes – are recruiting at the event, and even Weasel, the Super-G who actually put an end to Monty’s reign of terror in the original Death Sentence, turns up to play a set, though he quickly sneaks off again as soon as things get out of hand.
Verity, having learned about the ‘Invaders’ makes her way to Brixton too. Meanwhile the government starts sending in helicopter gunships, after Roots is sighted at the event (she really pissed off London Mayor Tony Bronson - yep, still get a kick out of that name, six issues in) in an earlier issue, and the Mayor is determined to make her pay.
Everyone, it seems, is heading to Brixton for a showdown. But it’s Retch and his crew who fire the first shots, utilising the power of death and decay to cut through the crowd like a plague of Biblical locusts.
As Verity makes her way to Brixton, all Hell breaks loose. The army are going in after Roots and the Super-Gs, tanks firing into the crowd. Roots and Retch are going at it hammer and tongs again. And the FBI, who still have a thoroughly solid hard-on for the business of exterminating Verity, who they see as the most dangerous surviving Super-G in Britain, decide to release their Goemels. For those just joining us, a) where the hell have you been, b) go back and read up on your Death Sentence, it’s the coolest, most kickass comic around right now, and you owe it to your brain to get a dose, and c) the Goemels are a freaky-ass new weapon that can turn those infected with G+ into a hideous, cartoonist’s nightmare – teeth, tentacles, puss-filled buboes, alien-looking hellions that attack other G+ people. They’re the kind of thing that can really put a crimp in your night. To be fair to him, artist Martin Simmonds has been busy in Death Sentence London before, but he’s probably never been quite this busy, rendering the chaos of a battle with so many forces at play. If you’ve read our previous reviews, you’ll know that Simmonds is among the best comic-book artists at work in the industry today, and he’s pretty much had to be, to fully render MontyNero’s story across the six issues of Death Sentence London. He’s gone above, beyond and so far out of sight he’s probably on a distant moon right now, sending back the artwork to bring such a fundamentally complicated battle to life. It’s a very, very busy issue once Retch and Co (not an urban gentlemen’s outfitters, no matter how it sounds) get started. Very much a case of lighting a trail of gasoline and then from our point of view, just watching what happens. Spare a thought for MontyNero and Simmonds though, who have had to choreograph the whole thing, both in terms of delivering clear story-strands within the carnage and chaos of an engulfing battle, but also in terms of panels and pages, bringing the scale of all the parts and players to life and frequently death across page after page here.
Ha. Nope, you’re not getting the final spoiler of the issue out of me, but you know how, in some books, some movies, there’s a moment when you pause, and cut away, and think ‘Oh holy mother pussbucket!’? The moment, say, when your hero opens a door and you hear the snik of a cable cutting that will set off the bomb in the room? The moment when your heroes realise it’s not a cave they’ve flown into, but the belly of some godawful hero-digesting beast?
There’s one of those at the end of this issue – a moment so potentially cataclysmic it makes you agree with Verity as she yells the unsentimental expletive “Titwaaannkkk--!” You can’t possibly miss this issue, for the glorious progression of its battle and the ultimate realisation at its ending. And believe me, you’re not going to want to dare to miss the next issue either, once you know what’s coming.
Simply put, Death Sentence London is the best comic-book action out there right now – love, sex, life, death, art, power, and every grade of meaning in the human heart, all squished up together in a fantastically believable just-around-the-corner dystopia. It’s been brilliant from the beginning, but all the beats are coming together, and here, very many of them explode in a clashing together of powers.
Who will survive till tomorrow? And will the future of the world depend on that answer?
Only the next issue can tell…
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