Deadly Class Vol. 1: Reagan Youth
Rick Remender, script; Wes Craig, pencils & inks; Lee Loughridge, colors
A high school drama with a difference, because this school is the Kings Dominion School for the Deadly Arts--training ground for the next generation of professional assassins. Most of the students come from the world’s top crime families, or from a family of assassins (one of them is the son of Joseph Stalin’s top assassin, for example). Marcus Lopez is just a street kid with potential, who accepts the invitation to enroll mainly because his life is completely empty and he has nothing to lose.
The year is 1987, so the subtitle of the volume has a double meaning. It’s Ronald Reagan’s second term as U.S. President, which is a big part of the historical and cultural setting of the story. And Marcus has a more personal connection: his parents died in front of him, caught up in the suicide of a mental patient released from a mental institution as a result of Reagan’s policies. He holds Reagan responsible, and has vowed to kill him.
As the story opens we see how Marcus gets by living on the street. As bad as it is, he repeatedly mentions that life in the children’s home he was sent to after his parents’ deaths was worse. It’s a lonely existence, but initially his life at the school is also isolated. He doesn’t understand the clique structure of the place, and opts to stay on the outside. He finally starts to get close to his lab partner during their first assignment, which involves a real murder. So the reality of the situation is clear from early on.
The climactic event of this first arc happens when a group of students heads to Las Vegas. They ask Marcus along so he can murder one of their fathers, who makes his living as a gambler. On the way they buy drugs, and Marcus ingests a large dose of LSD in a show of bravado. So he goes through the rest of the visit in a psychedelic haze, which is beautifully colored by Loughridge.
The ensuing series of violent events are definitely real. Marcus helps kill the father, is nearly murdered by a fellow student in a jealous rage over his girlfriend, and confronts his nemesis: a scarred former resident of the children’s home. This comic is not for everyone. In addition to the fairly graphic violence, it is also full of racial slurs and rough language generally: these are not nice people--or at least they have to put up a tough front. But they are vividly drawn (visually and in the dialog), and I can’t wait to see what happens next.
This book is one of my favorites coming out of Image right now, and it is the only Image book that I follow in monthly issues. I collect several Image books in collected form, but not Deadly Class. (Okay, so I also buy the trades of this, but also the monthlies.)
This book reminds me of the comic book version of Shameless. While you never really tune in for this express reason, you always are a little curious about the new levels of depravity that will be shown. This is the story of one messed up little man and the people in his life.
It's definitely a Rick Remender joint, and Wes Craig's artwork is incredible. I can't think of a similar artist because he is one of a kind. Simple drawings, but they really pack an emotional punch.
This is top-line stuff. Highly highly recommended.