It is hard to know where to start with a book as exceptionally honest as this. If I were to review Deadly Class in the style in which it was written, it would go something like this:
It’s not the incredible art where the panels spin your head, nauseate your mind, and cause your teeth to chatter from the whack or the writing that tears you open, guts your insides, leaving you vulnerable like that first time you were shit on by the one who never loved you back. But together they bring the tumultuous raw emotional energy of a youth you once thought lost and never to be seen or heard from again. Those teenage years where you actually lived for what seemed like the only time in your miserable adolescence. The music meant something, made you feel like you weren’t the only soul on the planet. You felt alive because it was the first time anything meant more to you than your own dejected sense of worthlessness. You took those drugs that sent you flying to a world that you never thought possible, only to leave you throwing up the regurgitated contents of the fast food shit you ate that day. But most of all, you feel the hurt, the undying ache of a heart gashed open and the loss of the only lover you have ever held dear. You fucked it up so badly that you treated them like shit because you never felt yourself worthy to give anything. You run because you didn’t have the balls to be true to them or yourself and when you stop running, you piss yourself as you stare into the barrel of a gun, ready for the desolate existence that is your life to unceremoniously end, a miserable life you never thought worth living. But you were wrong.
This is Marcus, this is his story. Rick Remender pulls no punches as he delivers one of the most incredibly honest and gut-wrenching tales of lost youth and innocence defiled. There is no idyllic youth where your parents raised you with all you could need and then it was horrifically taken away from you. In fact there is no entitlement to any upbringing at all. Marcus’s life is a tragedy from the beginning as a stranded homeless child and the only fantasy Remender affords him is the fanciful notion that he might have that special thing that would a successful assassin. Even that fantastical notion is rapidly removed because murder is unsurprisingly difficult even to a disaffected young man. No matter how much you despise a person or resent your loss, taking a life is all too drastic a measure. So when Marcus performs the act the first time, it changes him forever and his friends see him in an all too different light. As we slowly find out about Marcus’ past and about his nemesis, the unaffectionately nicknamed Fuckface, it becomes obvious that he must die.
This issue sees the culmination of the series with a final confrontation between Marcus and his crew against the horridly deviant Fuckface family. The writing is coarse and angry throughout, with cuss words but it is no more than you would expect from the lexicon of roughed up teenagers. The internal monologues are a reverie as there is calmness awash the most drastic of situations, such as Saya coming to terms with the blade incising her throat, as Maria watches from her perch. Their thoughts may be clear but their emotional conveyance is anything but. Craig is able to contort the faces of his cast to reverberate the feelings they have, whether it be the malice of Fuckface, the desperation of Saya, the grief of Maria or the sorrow of Marcus. This comes across especially in the violent scenes and the Fuckface family are all hideously deformed, exceptionally angry and genuinely scary. The emotionally vibrant way in which they are depicted contrasts to the meek appearances of our teenage protagonists making us fear for their lives. And when they strike, the hit hard and have a ghastly sense of invulnerability, adding to the fear all the more.
In a comic where violence is rife, the assault may be the primary focus of the art but in actual fact the underlying relationship strains take true precedence. The scenes involving Saya and Maria are upsetting because the love triangle has taken over their priorities to the extreme risks of life and death. The rapport between survival and emotional rationalisation are so intertwined that when Maria realises her folly, her anger brings courage and strength in the mutilation of her foe. Craig brings such gory detailing into these scenes of raw emotion in a way that feels so understandable and natural. It is anger and sadness personified to the point where morality just does not exist and all that is left is the sheer closure of physical violence. It is as if we can forgive the grotesque acts against ugly villains because what is actually happening is these teenagers are finding out who they are and where they want to go. And that is the secret combination to the success of Wes Craig’s art. The unique use of panels on the page are arranged individually to give you a blow by blow account of not only the fighting but the thought boxes too. Loughridge’s colouring plays an integral part to this process too as acts as he creates divisions in the story by tinting different characters’ scenes. The palette changes are only of a single colour theme to keep it simple as each scene has a focus that is not to be distracted.
I just don’t think you will find a finer piece of graphic art today. To find a work with such passion and meaning amongst a desolate world of violence and immorality is a rare gem. This book provides more emotional countenance than the cliché long drawn out relationship stories, and this also comes with free blood and violence too. This may be a story about a young boy but it is a story about all of us. Whether it was the time we all embarrassed ourselves with uncontrollable defaecation, fell in love with the wrong person or got completely wasted on illicit drug use, there was a time when Marcus was you. We have all faced those trials and tribulations and overcame them but we never thought we would because we all felt so lost at the time. Part of us wants to just tell the kids that they will be okay and it all gets easier with time, but none of us wishes to come face to face with the pitchfork of Gran-Gran or the horrid gnashers of Fuckface. Sometimes it is just one of those things you need to experience on your own.
“You were going to let her kill me!”