Rick Remender/Wes Craig/ Lee Loughridge
For my birthday this year, my wife (he said in a dated Borat voice) ordered me a bunch of trades off of my Amazon wish list. My TPBs backlog is already about several comics deep and includes an X-men omnibus I should probably get around to reading, but the gifts were welcomed none the less, because comics are GREAT. I had a flight to Atlanta recently, so grabbing a few birthday trades to read on the flight sounded like a great plan. It was by the way, go team me.
One of the trades was the first volume of Deadly Class by Rick Remender and Wes Craig. I’m a fan of Remender, who’s personally sold me a bunch of creator own series that I really dug in the past. I somehow missed Deadly Class when it dropped initially, probably due to like 500 Image #1s dropping with a ton of hype surrounding them this year alone. All I know was that the early buzz for this series was good, so it ended up on my Amazon wish list.
And now that I’ve read it, I can see why Deadly Class got all that comics internet hype, and can agree that it deserves it. While the concept reminds me a lot of Jimmie Robinson’s Five Weapons ( Both heavily feature schools for assassins ), Deadly Class is a more mature & “realistic” take on the concept, and one that uses the 1980s as a backdrop. It’a a period piece of sorts, “steeped in the music and pop culture of that time” according to David Lapham in the foreword. The quickest way to summarize the plot is that in 1987 our homeless lead Marcus Lopez is invited to join the Kings Dominion Atelier of the Deadly Arts (takes a breath). It’s a high school that bunch of bad people around the world send their childrens to in order to train them to become assassins. Which is fine for Marcus, as he has his mind set on revenge for the man responsible for the death of his parents. Oh and his past is coming for him, as he was kinda a dick prior to the beginning of the series and now it’s back to haunt him. Luckily for Marcus, he makes a bunch of new friends all representing various 80s cliches and stereotypes. I kid, having a multi-racial cast is nice, especially with a lead who’s not another sad white kid.
The first thing I want to point out about this book is how great it looks. This is (probably) the first time I’ve exposed to Wes Craig‘s art and it reminds me a lot of what David Aja‘s work over on Hawkeye (with shades of Frank Miller and Paul Pope as well) . That probably has something to with colorist Lee Loughridge’s flat colors plaette being so similar to Matt Hollingsworth’s work. Which I’m 1000% okay with. The final product is incredible, thanks to Craig’s non- traditional layouts and simplistic but stylized characters. And the colors do end up adding a lot to it, especially when it comes to a few fights scenes, a flashback and most importantly an acid trip. The choice to use flat colors was wise, and I’m glad to see it being used so well in this book.
I also really like how dedicated Remender and Craig are to ensure this book looks and feels era appropriate. From everything from sports and political references, as well as the fashion, the book really captures the looks and sound of the 80s well, without out it being to over the top or cheesey.
And what ultimately sold me on this trade was the type of emotion Remender poured into it. The book definitely has elements of his upbringing in it, but not in an autobiographical sort of way, unless Remender is an assassin with the oddest day job. The book feels more genuine, despite it’s ultra violent premise, and the characters feel incredible fleshed out. It’s like Kick Ass in a way, where it’s the type of thing that could happen, but without being a terrible and offensive comic.
I may be bit biased towards Deadly Class, since I’m genuinely a big fan of Remender’s work. But I had zero exceptions of this book going into it and I ended up loving it. It’s arguably he’s strongest creator owned work since Fear Agent, and I wish I read more of Wes Craig’s work prior to this trade. If you don’t mind some ultra violence and adult language, it’s definitely a book worth your time.