One Month to Live
written by Rick Remender, John Ostrander, Stuart Moore and Rob Williams
illustrated by Andrea Mutti and Koi Turnbull
The best superhero stories are the ones that give someone an enormous power, the enormous amount of responsibility that comes with it, and seeing what they do with this volatile combination. It’s an exciting and universal recipe for the greatest heroes and villains in comic books, usually developed over many years of battle and philosophy. Give this character only one month to live and you’re forced to rewrite the formula for handling superpowers.
In true suspension-of-disbelief style, Dennis Sykes gains the ability to manipulate matter, not unlike Molecule Man, after being force-fed a weird cocktail of biological waste during a heroic act. Unfortunately, this also activates a cancer spreading rapidly through his body. These exceptional powers attract the attention of the superhero community, and Dennis Sykes becomes, for a short time, “Flux” (not to be confused with the Hulk villain). One Month to Live chronicles Sykes’ fight for good, and for life.
Rick Remender sets up a premise that is rich with possibilities, explored over five issues by different authors and artists. Sykes is a guy who stumbles into his powers with a great deal of moral confusion, and we watch his approach to his abilities becomes refined over the course of the book. He makes mistakes, like most heroes, but doesn’t really have the time to spend a career of crimefighting to fix them. One Month to Live is probably one of the more personally engaging “superhero” comics I’ve read in a while, as it takes Marvel’s love of human stories and tells one that is far more human than any Spider-Man tale. And any comic that features an appearance by Ego, The Living Planet is an automatic winner.
While the art isn’t especially memorable, Graham Nolan and Jamie McKelvie provide a few visually appealing chapters. I can’t help but feel that if one artist were used throughout the series, rather than shifting between different aesthetics for each issue, this might be a better collection. It feels like an important story, and it even features a letters column in which people have written in to explain how this story has helped them cope with deaths in their families. A single artist would have likely benefited the overall feel, which is initially disconcerting but completely worth reading through. By the end, it’s a tearjerker anyhow.
It’s not flawless, but this is one of the greater stand-alone series Marvel has put out in a while, executed so smartly that it’s a very rewarding read for anyone who has suffered a loss, while never reading like a self-help manual. The theme of real, human death is obviously prevalent (which is not to be confused with the never-permanent “superhero” variety of death), but this is a very good addition to a young adult graphic novel collection. One Month to Live makes you want to live life, and there’s really nothing greater that fiction can do.
-- Collin David