After just 2 issues, I think this might be one of my favourite comics. That’s not hyperbole, it’s just so fucking good, and so cool. This issue gets things going in earnest, as Marcus is now enrolled in the Kings Dominion School for Assassins, and we find out a lot more about what the place is like, and start to find out a bit more about the supporting characters, and it’s all done with a real sense of style and purpose, thanks to Remender’s excellent writing, and Wes Craig’s perfectly-pitched art.
We begin with a short flashback to Marcus’ time at a boy’s home, where he’s busy building a bomb, whilst his roommate jerks off to a dog show. Yes, a dog show. After this, it’s back in the present day (well, 1987) as the headmaster explains the history of the Academy to Marcus. The pertinent details here is that many of the students have been sent here by their parents or governments or crime organisations and have ‘name’ cache, whereas Marcus has none of that, but, given that the school’s main purpose is to allow the people at the bottom of society, he has some promise.
Marcus’ first day of school is highly entertaining, as everyone gives him the stare-down, and he is confronted by all the various different cliques and groups. He opens up his locker to find a doll with a knife in it and ‘child killer’ written across it, before being threatened by the white supremacist ‘Dixie Mob’ kids, for being Nicaraguan, and then has the Mexican gang try to get him to join. But Marcus ain’t the joining type, so he’s on his own. We then get a glimpse at some of the classes at the school, and man, you can tell Remender is having a lot of fun coming up with this stuff. If you thought the classes and teachers in Wolverine & The X-Men were messed-up, you haven’t seen anything yet. It’s just great fun to see Remender play with a lot of high school movie tropes, but with that added edge of every student being a trained killer. We even get a bit where Marcus can’t find anyone to sit with at lunch!
So where does he go to eat? Outside, to the roof, with the outcast kids who are smoking pot. This scene was great, as we find out a bit more about characters like Willie and Lex, but also get a look at why Marcus agreed to attend this school… so he can assassinate the person who ruined his life… Ronald Reagan. I said in my review of #1 that the 80s were the last time period with a real counterculture, and this scene shows that, not just because the President is such a monolithic asshole, but also through the variety of the kids styles and tastes.
After lunch, it’s back to class, and hand-to-hand combat, where Marcus makes the mistake of agreeing to try and take on the teacher, and gets his ass handed to him. A big burly blond guy, Viktor, laughs at him, which causes another kid, a pudge with glasses to inadvertently set Viktor up for a beating from the teacher too. In the showers, Viktor and his lackeys are beating up this kid, Shabnam, but Marcus steps in to save him (but not before Shabnam shits himself), and then we get a great scene where Shabnam walks Marcus through all of the various cliques in the school. It’s a homicidal criminal version of the scene from Mean Girls, and it is awesome. We also hear that Saya, the girl who saved Marcus in #1 served some kind of punishment for killing a Cop, and when he tries to thank her, she tells him to fuck off. But we all know it’s true love.
The final class of the day is ‘AP Black Arts’ and is going to involve splitting into pairs and heading out into the city to kill a vagrant and being able to cover it up. I loved how Marcus, as a new kid, couldn’t find anyone to be his lab partner. We’ve all been there, but our experiments weren’t in murder. Marcus eventually pairs up with Willie, but since he needs to pass this class to not be expelled, well, the signs aren’t good.
There’s an intriguing epilogue, where one of the Cops who was after Marcus is called to a disturbance in a barn, where he finds a guy fucking a goat. Yep, a goat. This bestiality should tip you off that this is Marcus’ former roommate at his old boy’s home, and he’s looking for our hero, because he fire-bombed the home, and left this villain badly disfigured. It’s quite odd to be reading a comic where the hero fire-bombed an orphanage, but that’s what makes this book so good. It’s dark, and not afraid to go there.
Wes Craig’s art is excellent once again, it’s very stylish, and able to keep up with Remender’s dense script all the way. Every character is brimming with personality, and given that there are so many different teen subcultures at play, the look of everyone is paramount, and man, they look cool. I can’t praise this title highly enough, if you’re looking for a comic with an edge to it, then this is it.