Review by Frank Plowright
Deadly Class is a thrilling, character-based series that constantly surprises, and is exceptionally well drawn. It certainly makes an oversized hardcover omnibus edition like this a desirable item. The only downside will be for people experiencing it as their first exposure to Deadly Class, as there’s one hell of an ending.
Set in 1987, Kings Dominion is a school for assassins, generally a legacy affair, but occasionally the school will take in someone they consider suitable, someone with good reason for hating the world, and who will benefit from their training. Like Marcus Arguello. He’s fourteen and has grown up in the USA after moving with his father and mother. Life in Nicaragua was no longer sustainable when his father was outed as helping the Contras because their enemies have long memories, and a new life proved no protection when they came looking. Marcus was orphaned, and for reasons revealed here, considers life on the street preferable to the orphanage he lived in for several years, yet the squalid oppression actually prepared him for his new life.
Rick Remender introduces a succession of similarly damaged and brutalised teens, over the course of the book, delving into the background of most, each more horrific than the previous example. There is some equally brutal payback, but if you’ve a low tolerance for abuse and violence, this isn’t the series for you. As Marcus settles into the school he develops a small group of friends, and an all for one and one for all attitude, despite the school’s strict rules about extracurricular activity and anything that might bring unwanted attention on Kings Dominion.
Deadly Class is at its strongest when Wes Craig lays out the action sequences, cutting loose with his cinematic action style, providing ever shifting viewpoints, some extremely imaginative and ambitious, and a fantastic sense of flow and movement. It’s at its weakest when Remender is fumbling through the personal relationships in the middle section, necessary building blocks for what erupts later, but unconvincing as you’re reading them and slowing down what had been a breakneck pace. However, most of the writing is creative, and that’s hammered home when amid all the violence and horror Remender’s built his cast so well that you actually care about Marcus getting to the comic shop in time to open up. That’s fantastic writing, and not the only example. You’ll be constantly surprised at where Remender pulls the cast, and each surprise tops the last. Also notable is the colouring of Lee Loughridge, subtle when required, but gloriously vivid when that’s needed on a trip to Las Vegas.
Enticed by the review, but this hardcover’s beyond your pocket? Deadly Class reads just as well in paperback as Reagan Youth, Kids of the Black Hole and The Snake Pit. A second hardcover gathers three more volumes in The Funeral Party.