Rick Remender has proven to be in it for the long game. If you look back at his older works and Marvel projects, his mind is twenty steps ahead. This was quite pertinent with regards to Uncanny X-Force stemming into Uncanny Avengers, which is now bringing it all back together and is also the case for Captain America and his work on the newly launched Winter Soldier. In any form of media, the type of story that builds upon itself for a long period of time allows for deep character exposition and personality transitions, which are often the crux of Remender’s stories. As he launches new books I often wonder how long he has planned for them, and these thoughts have certainly entered my mind for his new creator owned Image title, Deadly Class.
There may have only been four issues but they are all equally distinct and are only just coming to grips with the central tenets and themes of the book. It sets itself up quite oddly because the first issue featured our main teenager, Marcus, essentially down and out, literally he was homeless for reasons we are unable to elicit. He is taken in by a very special school, one that spotted his abilities to become a great assassin. Whilst it seems markedly similar to the classic La Femme Nikita, the book does not travel in a straight direction. As a member of a new school is suffers the humiliation and indignation of every newcomer who is not part of a school clique. He slowly befriends and starts interacting with a couple of classmates who now seem to have taken him on. This issue plays an aftermath of a school outing with a purpose to assassinate a guilty civilian. You can tell immediately this book is straight to the point and raw in its essence, without too many frolics, often expected with school-based comics. In any case he failed in his mission and killed an undeserving man and is sentenced to time in solitary confinement. Amongst all of this Marcus has been abusing a multitude of narcotics, which develops further as this issue progresses. He is broken out of incarceration by his friends who decide to take a field trip to Las Vegas for a hedonistic experience.
There are some very adult themes to these issues despite the ages of our protagonists, and this serves an interesting moral purpose. Their tutelage serves a significantly immoral purpose and their students are certainly troubled. Therefore to bring out the discipline and punishment required to tame such rouges is extraordinarily difficult. Many of the book’s characters are flawed and we are unsure as to the motivations of Marcus, even though he narrates half of the book. He garners of sympathy purely because of the wrongs that repeatedly meet him. He seems to have wandered onto a troubled path and is trying to best navigate it, if not escape it. This particular issue does just that because Marcus’ teenage drives of machismo and trying to impress Sara leads him into folly. The group wander into a hippy shantytown and try to score some acid, or some nicely decorated blotting paper. In any case the latter half of the book depicts Marcus having the acid trip of his life, whilst his friends try to keep him safe. If you hadn’t noticed how phenomenal Wes Craig’s art was prior to these sequences, then he really begins to shine and not just with Lee Loughridge’s beautiful colouring.
Wes Craig and Rick Remender have a distinct resonance and style because there are some joyous effects in place with this title. It was noticeable at the very first issue because there is a lot of writing on the page in the form of Marcus’ thoughts. These are simply placed next to the panels of art but do not detract but impressively accompany the drawings. Craig’s use of square panels is spectacular as they convey emotions and feeling so very simply. The examples above and below show how their shape and size allow focus on a character’s form and action. Craig’s faces are simple as their highlight the personality of the figure from key features, whether it’s an alluring posture, a devious grin or a troublesome downward glance. This zooming in and out quality to used throughout the book. The standout double page spread features Marcus and Willy traipsing through a bunch of hippies trying to find acid. We see the whole scene from afar with small boxes of their conversations with people. The whole page superbly conveys the business of the scene together with a focus on the actions of out central pair, as they move away from the car. As we delve into acid heaven a combination of panelling and zooming effects are successfully utilised with bright glaring colours to depict Marcus’ drug afflicted perspective.
The whole book functions as a sex and drug fuelled teenage journey of discovery. However that is a disservice because these characters are already more experienced than the average person their age, and are facing very adult issues. We see glimpses of these throughout the book such as Billy requesting Marcus to kill his father and Maria cynically expressing the natural course of teenage romance. These people hardly fit into any comic trope, let alone fictional tropes and are extremely interesting in personality and impulse. It is easy to see this comic as a book about unruly rebellious teenagers, but it is so much more than that. The damage has already been done and their worlds are already destroyed, and they are being taught how to kill. There is no nonchalance in this premise as Saya tells Marcus her struggles after she murdered a police officer. The characters are gritty and stoic and are trying to chase a degree of normality; even it is getting high in Vegas. We see the world through Marcus’ eyes but this is not a view we are familiar with and takes some getting used to. Rick’s writing is subtle and nuanced providing small pieces of a jigsaw that has undoubtedly lost pieces in its travels. Craig’s pencilling is some of the best that I’ve seen that allows real focus on the essence of the scene. We are on this journey for the foreseeable future and I can only imagine the twisted and mangled path it follows, and I worry for the characters in this book as try to make sense of a world devoid of innocence.
“And it felt good just to be wanted”