Death Sentence is a fantastic premise for a graphic novel. Set in the modern day, it imagines what would happen if a sexually-transmitted virus was discovered that gave the people it infected superhuman powers, but only six months to live. It’s an interesting thought experiment; if you caught it, would you use your powers for good or evil?
Death Sentence‘s problem is that it chews off this sticky conundrum but fails to turn it into an engaging story.
There are three main characters in the book: an intellectual comedian surprisingly similar in looks and outlook to Russell Brand; a one-hit-wonder rock star with a heroin addiction and a few skeletons in his closet; and a frustrated young artist who’s been forced to take a job as a graphic designer because she can’t translate her brilliant ideas into actual pictures. Without giving too much away, all three contract the virus. One of them decides to use his/her powers to turn the world upside down; the other two are unwittingly and unwillingly conscripted to help return the status quo.
I struggled to make an empathetic connection with any of the characters. They’re all reasonably well-rounded, with their own personal issues to contend with. The trouble is that they’re completely wrapped up in themselves. Perhaps I would be too, if I was given just six months to live, but it doesn’t help endear this bunch to the reader.
An even bigger problem is that the plot is pedestrian. The story is littered with graphic sex scenes (as the libido appears to be another area that’s super-stimulated by the virus) and extremely violent death (mostly through exploding heads), and there are a few surprises in the extremity of what lengths the antagonist will go to in order to nurture the master plan to fruition. But it leans too hard on this crutch, replacing drama and sophistication with cheap thrills.
The art does a fair job of ensuring that everything looks sexy and cool, and brings a certain dynamism to the piece, but without back-up from the script it’s just not enough to lift it above average.