Another week, another exceptional debut issue from Image Comics. They really are taking the piss now aren’t they? Deadly Class is actually quite a hard comic to describe at this point, but with this first issue, Rick Remender and Wes Craig have already hooked me in with a unique tone of voice, fantastic art and a variety off characters who, even if they aren’t actually interesting just yet, at least look interesting and hold a lot of promise. This is a vibrant, angry first issue that demonstrates all that’s good about comics and about being young and screwed over.
The story here takes place in 1987, during the Reagan era and a famous Stock Market Crash. The parallels between that time and now are obvious really, and it allows Remender to comment on the current fucked-up state of the world, but from a safer distance that should hopefully help him avoid controversy (but then as we’ve seen in Uncanny Avengers, Remender seems to court controversy without even really doing anything). Plus, this time period allows Remender to reflect the music and different youth subcultures of the time, which do seem purer. In the 1980s, hardcore punks could actually be hardcore, now, they’re just on the internet and in Starbucks like everyone else. Rebellion has been commoditized now, but in the 80s, there was still some left.
The main character in this issue is Marcus, a homeless 14 year old with a mysterious secret in his past. His parents moved to the USA from Nicaragua after his dad helped out the CIA, and it looks like this has something to do with his being homeless, as his parents are dead. Marcus himself may have killed someone too, as he is on the run. Marcus’ inner voice from Remender is constant and very well-written, and you really feel like you’re inside his head. Remender used this same technique in #1 of Black Science, but I feel it works better here. The opening half of the issue sees Marcus struggle on the streets of San Francisco, with people not wanting to give him change, and the Reaganite philosophy basically fucking him over. In a cool twist, he actually shares a Birthday with big Ronald. Marcus flashes back to an unfortunate memory from his childhood, where we see how his parents died, when crazy woman (who had been let out of an Asylum due to Reagan’s budget cuts) jump off the Golden Gate Bridge, and land right on top of his parents crushing them, which is just fucked-up, but other than that, the rest of his past remains a tantalising mystery.
In what turns out to be a pivotal moment, Marcus shows mercy to an old homeless man who steals his shoes, and throughout all of this, Marcus has the strange feeling that he’s being watched. At his wit’s end, Marcus goes up to the Golden Gate himself, ready to commit suicide, but he is pulled back, both by the memory of his father, and also by the words of a mysterious girl.
The story really kicks into high gear when Marcus attends a Day Of The Dead celebration, where he spots the same mysterious girl and tries to chase after here. It’s here that the Police converge on Marcus, trying to bring him in for some crime, probably murder. The girl, and a bunch of other teenagers help Marcus escape, and we get a fantastic chase and action scene, with the girl helping Marcus to escape the Cops, who aren’t out to arrest, but to kill. Wes Craig’s art is amazing here, and throughout the issue in fact. I’ve been a fan of Craig’s since his work on Guardians Of The Galaxy, but here, he’s really cutting loose with some fantastic designs and layouts. This comic just looks cool, which is very important when the story is so youth-orientated. Colourist Lee Loughridge also plays a huge part in how good this comic looks, as he uses a variety of techniques. Some pages are coloured ‘normally’, but on others, he allows one colour to dominate, so everything is hued purple or red. It’s hard to describe in words, but it looks great.
The mysterious girl (her name is Saya) saves Marcus, and even kills a Cop to do so. Marcus is taken away, and it is revealed to him by the rest of his teenaged protectors (we don’t know much about any of them yet, other than names, but each has a distinctive look, and I’m excited to find out more about them) and by Master Lin, an old Asian man, that the reason they have been watching him is because they want to recruit him to join them, and be trained to become one of the world’s greatest assassins. Yep, assassins. Marcus is understandably wary of this, and he initially refuses, but thanks to Saya, he is turned around, and agrees to become a student at the ‘Kings Dominion School Of The Deadly Arts’.
This was a great opening issue, it was stylish, the characterisation of Marcus was solid, and now that the set-up is out of the way, I can’t wait for the real craziness to begin. If you’re looking for a comic that’s like nothing else out there, then look no further than Deadly Class.