Ah, America in 1980s, the time of hair metal, 8-bit gaming consoles, and teenage hitmen. Wait…teenage hitmen? That doesn’t fit with the times unless, of course, you’re talking about Deadly Class by Rick Remender and Wes Craig. Set against the backdrop of the late 80s, Deadly Class is a bildungsroman concerning Marcus Lopez, a homeless teenager with a troubled history. With a strong creative team, and the backing of Image Comics, I was excited to check out the first volume, titled “Reagan Youth.” So grab your cassette tapes, it’s time to enroll in Deadly Class!
The year is 1987, and to say Marcus Lopez is down-on-his-luck is a major understatement. Homeless, without friends or family, and recovering from traumatic experiences from the boys’ home where he once lived, Marcus saunters directionless through the streets of San Francisco. Everything changes when he meets Saya, a young Japanese hitwoman who attends King’s Dominion, a school where youth a trained to become professional killers. Once Marcus enrolls, he charts a new course in life, one he may come to regret…
Rick Remender is one of the most prolific creators in comics, currently writing three series at Image and two at Marvel. That said, it’s pretty spectacular that he continues to churn out a hit with each new issue, and nowhere is this fact more apparent than in the pages of Deadly Class. Remender greatest success comes from applying his own life experiences to the story; in the final letters page of issue #1, he discusses his turbulent youth in the punk scene of Phoenix, AZ and how the events inspired much of the moments found in Deadly Class (albeit with the violence ramped up). A combination of interesting locales, exceptional character work, enticing dialogue, and wild events gives this comic Remender’s signature mark, which is to say that’s it’s a wonderful amalgam of concepts. Perhaps best of all, there’s a line of black humor throughout, which layers well with a gripping narrative that has a fairly strong message about alienation.
Comics are a visual medium, and the majesty of Deadly Class is thanks in no small part to artist Wes Craig, colorist Lee Loughridge, and letterer Rus Wooton. Their combination of gritty styles melds into a perfect syncopation, the interplay of their individual contributions producing images that flow effortlessly. The team pays special attention to making details regarding the U.S. in the 1980s come to the fore, making the period piece stronger. Great character designs, creative panel placement, and wild drug-fuelled hallucinations are just a few of the key features of Deadly Class’s artwork, and all of them are in the top tier of modern comic book artwork.
Deadly Class Volume 1: Reagan Youth exemplifies the definition of “great comic.” With a compelling plotline, stellar artwork, and likable (if heavily flawed) characters, this is definitely a series that’s worth picking up. If you’re a fan of spins on the classic narrative of “high school students who kick ass,” then Deadly Class is for you.
-great character work
-strong period piece with a moving message
-heavily violent and contains disturbing scenes (i.e. don’t read it if you’ve got a weak stomach)
Brett Simon is a twenty-four year old comic enthusiast. He fenced in high school…so that makes him sort of like the characters in this book. Right? Right? (No of course it doesn’t, he went to a private school in Westchester County.)
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