REVIEW: Deadly Class #32

DEADLY CLASS #32 / Writer: Rick Remender / Artist: Wes Craig / Colorist: Jordan Boyd / Letterer: Rus Wooton / Editor: Sebastian Girner / Publisher: Image Comics / Release Date: March 14th, 2018 

Deadly Class is quite the hot property right now. SyFy recently wrapped production on a pilot for a Deadly Class television series, featuring familiar comic book faces like Benedict Wong (Wong, Doctor Strange) and Lana Condor (Jubilee, X-Men Apocalypse).  The show-runner is Adam Targum, who cut his teeth on the 2006 Blade television series. The pilot is directed by Riverdale alumni, Lee Krieger and is being produced by the Russo Brothers (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Civil War). Deadly Class is one of those books to watch as its popular culture profile grows, but honestly, you should have been reading from the get-go.

Deadly Class by Rick Remender, Wes Craig, Jordan Boyd, and Rus Wooton is one of the best books around. Period. Set in the 1980 Reagan years, the series follows a group of teenagers, enrolled at King’s Dominion of the Deadly Arts, who hope to become the world’s best assassins. Several of the main characters come from crime families, but our entry into the world is Marcus Arguello. Marcus is a Nicaraguan citizen who grew up as an orphan on the streets of America and earns entry into King’s Dominion after he blows up the halfway house in which he was abused. Marcus is surrounded by a wonderful cast. To say much more would dip heavily into spoiler territory, but a large portion of the cast you will grow to love does not make it out of the first year, which ends in Deadly Class #21.

Since Deadly Class #22, there has been a lot of new faces, but the real thrills come from following the survivors as their numbers continue to dwindle. Their history brings new life to their bloody feuds, and Deadly Class #32 kicks off a new story line called Love Like Blood, which promises to be a bloody end to some of the longest running feuds in the series.

In an interview, Remender explains that Deadly Class originally began as two separate books. One involves a school of teenagers training to be assassins and the second is set in the punk scene of Remender’s youth. Rick Remender’s career begins in (and will likely always involve) punk culture. His early work involves producing cover art and comics within the punk scene and the influence of punk and the Do-It-Yourself culture is easy to see in any of his work. Punk is more than a visual or musical style; it is a form of counter-culture resistance. If there is one defining aspect of punk, it is that it is impossible to define punk as any one thing.

And I have never seen a comic book so thoroughly engage in this idea. Every cast member of Deadly Class has problems with society and the status quo. What makes the book interesting is that each of them have different ideas about how to change things; some challenge the way society works, while others simply reaffirm it with someone else in charge. Deadly Class is not just a book about counter-culture, it is a clash between various counter-cultures, embodied within its characters.

Visually, we see the influence of various punk movements like Straight-edge, Riot Grrl, and Chicana on our main characters. Wes Craig is a visual mastermind within this series. He takes heavy influence from the most infamous of 80s comics and meshes it perfectly with various musical styles that also include various forms of metal. There is a lot of Frank Miller influence in how Craig uses shadow, and there is a lot of the Hernandez Brothers, which is unsurprising since Love and Rockets is often considered to be a cornerstone for punk in comic books.

But Craig is a genius in his own right. His paneling is astonishing and there is plenty of creative framing in this issue. There is a page in this issue that employs thirty plus panels of all shapes and sizes to recap a character’s life, warping the page to create a curved effect I have not seen anywhere else. Characters in action leap out of panels and into the next page. There is one shootout that involves a trio of characters shooting their way through a staircase that should not work as well on one page as it does. And he always knows exactly where to cut a scene that leaves you wanting more, which shows excellent unity between art and script.

Jordan Boyd’s colors fit over Craig’s pencils like a glove. He creates an ugly palette that brings this gritty world to life, but can immediately throw it away for vibrant bombastic colors that bring action set pieces to life. The vibrancy of the violence contrasts so well against the world that you are never lost even as blood and bullets crowd the page.

Rus Wooton’s letters are kinetic and his sound effects are plentiful. He has to fit dialogue and captions over already crowded pages, but he seems to find those perfect little gaps in the art to fit them. And his sound effects feel alive, pulsating to the beat of the book.

Deadly Class is a living, breathing love letter to punk culture. It moves to a beat that is driven by amazing characters who embody musical movements and cultural ideals. It wears its influences as a sleeve tattoo, but becomes something unlike anything else when Wes Craig, Jordan Boyd, and Rus Wooton push the comic book medium to new extremes. This is everything I want from a comic.

VERDICT: 5 Out Of 5 Long Running Feuds

 

Shaun Martineau is a young Canadian father and undergraduate with a BA in Cultural Theory and Creative Writing. He has reviewed Marvel titles for nine years but broke away in 2017 to focus more on smaller publishers like Aftershock, Black Mask, and Action Lab.

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