Deadly Class – Trade Waiter
Wes Craig and Rick Remender’s Deadly Class features some of the most striking covers in comic shops right now. Just look at them:
The comic tells a hyper violent Regan era story of high school drama. If that sounds like an odd mix, it also reads like one. While Deadly Class borrows a lot of the tropes from these genres the new kid at school, poor kid in a world of snobs, stereotypical high school clicks, it also consistently surprises. Deadly Class occupies a meaner uglier world than the John Hughes movies it explicitly references. The book overflows with references and that can work or not. The story comes from a decidedly Gen-X specific view point that can ring true or if you’re my age a lot may go over your head.
The deeply flawed protagonist sit on the edge of unforgivable. If the audience roots for him it’s because everyone he’s up against does yet worse things than he does. That unceasingly dark tone isn’t necessarily for me. But, Rick Remender’s work on the relentlessly sad Fear Agent earns him the benefit of the doubt from me. I love that book and like Fear Agent it’s possible to read Deadly Class just for the art.
The references in this story don’t just call back to 80s high school culture in dialogue and setting they also echo the iconic images of 80s movie posters and iconic images. I find myself bringing this up in every review I write because it’s so important, but thee acting in this book, the way the characters convey their lust, fear, stonedness, pulls the reader in. Expressive characters elevate the story and make it more immediate. Comic storytelling is about more than word balloons, if the reader is going to care about the characters they have to act and here they really do. The emotional spectrum for characters in the action heavy world of comic books usually wavers between grim determination and grimmer determination. But our hero doesn’t bother with that, he even complains about how hollow and unfrightening it is for someone to act tough or pretend not to have emotion. That emotion keeps us watching these characters and makes the book interesting.
I like reading Deadly Class, I love looking at it.