Friday, May 9, 2014

Top Of The Deadly Class

The first panel contains a Bad Brains reference, typeset in the San Francisco skyline. Writer Rick Remender knows how to set a tone.

Remender's mainstream comics work (Captain America, Uncanny X-Force, Uncanny X-Men) comes with a heavy first person narration and it returns fully here. Marcus, the main character, is a teenage gutter punk with a mouth beyond his years. His family was killed by a suicidal schizophrenic jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. Marcus drifts between stealing from sanctimonious businessmen and flinging himself off the same bridge his parents died under.

It's not a good life and while Remender doesn't write <i>that</i> in the sky, he has no trouble showing and then telling us.

Penciller and co-creator Wes Craig is heavily indebted to Hawkeye penciller and Valiant concept artist David Aja, or whomever Aja is himself indebted to, and it works wonders. (There's an especially effective scene where colorist Lee Louridghe uses the Hawkeye flat purples as Marcus contemplates suicide that is so obvious as to be homage.)

Little details like bleeding the gutters a little into a panel to highlight the person walking away, or how a female character's face has shades of Paul Pope make the thing sing. Some panels are set at an angle, one, I suspect to heighten storytelling and to mimic San Francisco's famously steep geography.

What's also notable is just how many panels are on a page, as high as 17, and instead of an average of 6-8, it's closer to 9-12. I hesitate to say much about the story. Marcus is enrolled into a school for assassins, called King's Dominion Of The Deadly Arts.

A comparison to Morning Glories, another Image comic about a high school with ill intent, is a red herring. Last I checked, the school in Morning Glories has imperial designs over time and space (I cashed out after the third trade) and with the second issue of Deadly Class, it appears Deadly Class' school is merely a place where teenagers become killers for hire.

I texted excitedly to Adam Witt (from whom I now steal the phrase "breakout-caliber" to describe the pencils of Mr. Craig) that this was the Rick Remender project I've been waiting for. Here, finally, I think is the comic where Remender's history with and love for punk suffuse the work.

The police are mentioned here quite a bit. They're always the antagonists, and referred to as pigs and fuzz and a number of other likely period appropriate slurs. At first blush, it sounds corny, but given the students and the time period, it rings true. They would say that. They would sound like kids trying too hard, they're in assassin high school!

(Speaking of trying too hard: Deadly Class can be described as Stray Bullets robs The Invisibles at gunpoint.)

To acknowledge it's been a couple months since the first issue came out: I thought the ending to issue two was unsatisfying (Will Marcus kill a person now that he's enrolled in assassin school?), but issue three startled me to the point where I gasped as I read it on the train. I blush and smile as I see myself in the straight edge high school student. There is an almost-Phonogram level of music nerdery in issue three. It shows character.

Remender leans very heavily on the idea that the comic is authentic to his life and his own lived experiences in the backmatter. Only he knows, but even if (or especially if) not one single detail of Deadly Class was inspired by a life experience, what matters is that, like all good fiction, Deadly Class feels true. If you can lie that well, that's how you know you're a good storyteller. If it happened to you? Shit, that's almost cheating.

Deadly Class is currently up to issue four, with the first collection announced for a release in July.

Have I really not put Minor Threat onto this blog yet? Well, wait a little while longer. Have Thrice do an especially messy and glorious cover of Seein' Red and Screaming At A Wall. Recorded during the meticulous Vheissu sessions, Thrice blows off some steam here. It feels like home.
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