Deadly Class, Vol.1: Reagan Youth
Author: Rick Remender
Illustrator: Wesley Craig
Colourist: Lee Loughridge
Publisher: Image Comics
Genre: Graphic Novel, Thriller
Release Date: July 16th 2014 (first published January 1st 2014)
Page Count: 160
“This isn’t a dress rehearsal Marcus, you only get the one turn. Life is a series of unique opportunities. It’s our job to find the happiness in each one.”
Everything about this graphic novel was perfect. I’m being one hundred percent serious when I say that this is probably the best graphic novel I’ve read to date. I have only recently started getting into the world of graphic novels and I have read quite a few amazing ones so far, but none that felt as true and honest as Deadly Class, Volume 1.
Goodreads Synopsis: It’s 1987. Marcus Lopez hates school. His grades suck. The jocks are hassling his friends. He can’t focus in class. 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 has a double-digit body count. Welcome to the most brutal high school on earth, where the world’s top crime families send the next generation of assassins to be trained. Murder is an art. Killing is a craft. At Kings Dominion School for the Deadly Arts, the dagger in your back isn’t always metaphorical.
When I first read the description of this story, my immediate thought was: 80’s + teenage psychopaths attending a school where they are trained to become assassins = a fast paced thrill of a story with a typical 80’s movie approach. Although it was definitely fast paced and exciting, I was completely wrong. I don’t want to go as far as to say this graphic novel is depressing, but it was definitely dark and deeply emotional. It was so much more than a bunch of teenagers stuck in an Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters style setting. Now, I wasn’t alive in the 80’s (I really wish I was), but the first thing that comes to mind when I think of the 80’s is a bunch of 20-somethings with teased hair and leather dancing around to bands like Duran Duran, Wham!, Tears for Fears, Depeche Mode etc. You can thank Hollywood for that. Instead, what this story brings to life is the grungier side of the 80’s. The hair metal, coke snorting, heroin shooting delinquents in a not so nice part of town. This story really brings to life a part of 80’s history that just isn’t as glamourized.
“It’s not even the other kids, because fuck them. It’s me. My anxiety. I do this thing after I’m around people where I obsessively over analyze every interaction to see where I went wrong or who I offended.”
The characters were phenomenal. Each one was so different from the next which is fantastic when there is a high number of characters within a story. For me, Marcus was extremely relatable. This poor kid is suffering from anxiety and is constantly questioning every decision he makes as soon as he’s made them. His internal monologue was fantastic, especially in the scene where he is being brought in for police questioning. Saya is a badass. End of story. She’s dark and mysterious and I can’t wait to learn more about her. Willie’s back story is quite interesting. I really don’t want to get into spoilers, but let’s just say Willie isn’t everything his friends think he is. And then there is Maria. As someone who shares the same name, I can say that the majority of the time a character named Maria is introduced in a story, whether it be on television, in a film or in writing, she is almost always a stereotypical house maid and that really angers me. This is not the case within Deadly Class. Maria fits right in with the rest of her psychopathic classmates. She’s first introduced in full Day of the Dead make-up and I knew I would love her character from that point on. Of course, a mysterious villain is introduced. He clearly is somehow involved with Marcus’ character and I’m curious about the details to their back story. There are a few other characters that were introduced, but didn’t necessarily have a huge part in this volume so I’m eager to see if we learn more about them in the future.
As clearly stated above, the artwork is phenomenal. I love the style and line work which I think works perfectly for this story. The colours range from dark and moody, to monotone, to crazy vibrating acid trip goodness. That scene was one of my favourites by the way. The artwork and the colouring definitely help when differentiating between the different emotions Marcus is feeling throughout the graphic novel. We know when he’s feeling anxious or stressed or if he’s tripping out based on the colouring alone.
As I stated earlier, this is one of the best graphic novels I have read to this date. I bought this first volume back in March while I was at Toronto ComiCon and I have no idea why I waited until now to read it. I cannot wait to get my hands on the second volume so I can see how this story progresses. Love love love it.
“Lex and me, we’re gonna assassinate bankers, oil company executives…”
“Bananarama. Don’t forget bloody Bananarama.”