Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Wes Craig
Colorist: Lee Loughridge
Publisher: Image Comics
Battle Royale meets Harry Potter. Deadly Class is the perfect combination of raw brutality and deep characterization that goes with Battle Royale and the secret societal institution that teaches a school of special people special skills that you get with Harry Potter. This book is a creator owned series published under Image Comics written by the always genius Rick Remender (writer of hit series Black Science), co-created & drawn by Wes Craig, and coloured by Lee Loughridge where in the late 1980s a boy with nothing but his life to lose is given a chance at redemption when he is found down on his luck and running from the police. With the 1980 setting and the nature of the book revolving around a school that trains kids to be efficient killers, the book feels like a Breakfast Club meets Kill Bill sort of experience.
Deadly Class takes place in the 1987 where we follow our main character Marcus, a homeless teenager whose parents were indirectly killed by the Reagan Administration when they arrived to San Francisco from Nicaragua, who after being followed in secret and unsuccessfully chased around by the police is invited to join a secret school (King’s Dominion School of The Deadly Arts) for assassins run by a distinguished old Chinese man Master Lin. As you read you discover that Marcus has been through a lot of things in his life but you never quite know what exactly Marcus has had to go through, such as the times when he hints that he would never go back to the Sunset Boys Home for unexplained reasons. The moments in the school can really bring the reader back to memories of high school as you get that “first day of school” feeling and remember your time finding the group that you fit in best with. The book always has an edgy feeling to it as at any moment it seems like shit might go down and the kids seem mysterious and either hostile or plotting. The first volume shifts story a few times moving from Marcus’ first assignment to kill a deserving vagrant, to the road trip to Vegas where Marcus takes way too much acid and shit really seems to hit the fan.
This book has a beautiful wide range of stylized colours and the art is distinct and effective. I found Wes Craig’s art in ‘Deadly Class’ to be similar to Nick Dragotta when it came to the character and setting art work however, Wes Craig’s forefront art effectively pops over his background art which is typically low detail place setting or solid colour shapes. That being said, the ink and palette of light colours chosen and implemented by Lee Loughridge make the art look even more distinct and gives the book a really cool feeling. If you are reading the Image book ‘Outcast’ then I would say that the feelings that the colours set in this book are similar in that they make the art work that much more distinct because of it. Rick Remender writes the characters really well and diversely which must have been really fun when writing a diverse cast of cliques and characters. The book sort of jumped from one idea to another idea a little more quickly than desired in the first volume which left me wanting to know more about the daily functions in King’s Dominion but instead the book seemed to set the stage for the book’s latter story and gave us the time to bond with the main characters and figure out everyone’s standing. I only got into Deadly Class after receiving a free issue of #18 from the great local retailer Paper Heroes (Windsor, Ontario) and really fell in love with it and wanted more of this story. If this seems like your kind of book then definitely pick this up from your local comic shop and give it a read because after reading issue #18 it is clear that this book only gets bigger and better.
~ T.J Head