Review - Deadly Class #1

"A positive mental attitude is essential to surviving out here."

To be an assassin means you have to undergo lots of training. Martial arts training, stalking training...even training in how not to freak out in high-pressure situations. In theory, just about anyone can become an assassin, assuming they want to put the time into it. Deadly Class #1 offers a curriculum that will test if even the homeless can channel their anger into something more productive in terms of assassinating targets. The issue is written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Wes Craig, colored by Lee Loughridge and lettered by Rus Wooton.

Marcus Lopez is homeless, drifting aimlessly through the streets of San Francisco at the tail end of the 1980s. The city is chock full of others like him, pitting Marcus against others for things as trivial as shoes. Marcus is struggling to find an identity--much less a place to sleep--amidst a world roiled by punk aspirations. He can't focus in class, thanks to his mind constantly drifting to the stunning girl in the front row and the Dag Nasty show he has tickets to. But the jocks are the children of Joseph Stalin's top assassin, the teachers are members of an ancient league of assassins, the class he’s failing is "Dismemberment 101," and his crush, a member of the most notorious crime syndicate in Japan, has a double-digit body count.

If there was any doubt surrounding Remender's abilities, they should just be extinguished. Deadly Class #1 is an incredibly tightly written story that feels a little like Wanted at times, but ventures into much headier territory. Marcus has a lot of anger with the world he lives in and vents through his journal, something that is so important to him he would rather have it than clothing. Remender captures the zeitgeist of the 80s exceptionally well, tapping into the counter-culture sensibilities of many youths of the decade. Marcus is revealed to the reader slowly and methodically, making his decision to join King's Dominion School of the Deadly Arts more sensible in the grand scheme of things. Marcus constantly questions his place in the larger picture and his choices make sense in that regard.

While Remener's script is fantastic, Craig's art is extraordinarily frenetic and fits with the frenzied pace of the era. There's a lot of chasing in the book and Craig handles it with great ease, showing the reader action in fragmented panels that keep the action flowing. He and Loughridge make a great tandem and the color palettes change with the emotion of the story being told on the relevant page. Craig moves between gorgeously detailed panels teeming with background action to more sparsely illustrated ones where the main character gets all the attention. It's a very impressive style that really keeps the reader engaged regardless of whether or not they're reading about a car chase or Marcus visiting a street celebration.

Deadly Class #1 is all about disenfranchisement and Remender hits the nail on the head squarely. While it's all primarily set-up, the beauty of Deadly Class #1 is that it firmly plants the reader in a position to really appreciate the unfolding story ahead. Remender's dialogue is very concise and Craig's art is staggering, offering a combination that makes Deadly Class #1 just another feather in the Image Comics' cap. There's a lot of emotion packed into the issue that readers will resonate with, stressing that Deadly Class #1 is a book that should have a very wide appeal. Where Marcus goes as far as his training remains to be seen, but it's expected that the story will really explore some really dark avenues of the psyche.

Deadly Class #1 is in stores now with interiors below.