Deadly Class Book One: Noise, Noise, Noise (2016)
Reprints Deadly Class #1-16
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Wes Craig
It’s no secret that I am a fan of Rick Remender, I spent half a year reading through and reviewing his entire body of work at Marvel Comics in 2018. As part of my look at Image Comics this year, I decided to check out his Deadly Class series, which had been turned into a now-canceled series on SyFy. I literally went in blind, not knowing the names of any characters or the premise of the series. I was surprised by what I read, enjoyed quite a bit of it but also had some moments that I didn’t care for.
It’s 1987, and Marcus Lopez Arguello is a teenage orphan living homeless on the streets of San Francisco. We learn that his parents were killed by a mentally ill woman who jumped from a building and landed on them. She was one of many people released from mental health facilities when the Reagan Administration cut funding. Through a series of circumstances, Marcus is recruited to attend King’s Dominion, a private school that specializes in training the children of mobsters and mass murderers to become cold, calculating killers in their own right. Those with long family ties to King’s Dominion are Legacies, but new recruits like Marcus are Rats and reviled by those in higher standing.
The cliques at King’s Dominion are centered around ethno-geographic criminal cartels. You have superior minded Russkies, cold & measured Yakuza children, kids with ties to the Afro-Latino gangs of California, Central American drug cartel kiddies, and more. Marcus makes quick friends and enemies within the first few days, setting up what will be the significant relationships of the series. He’s caught in a love triangle with Maria, a member of Soto Vatos, who has a troubled history and Saya, daughter of the Kuroki Syndicate, who has her own agenda. Among his rivals are Viktor, the muscle-headed Russian and Shabnam, a portly young man whose specialty is acquiring intel on his enemies.
The deluxe edition includes the first three arcs of the series, which center on Marcus getting to know his new schoolmates and deal with the fallout of a situation he escaped years prior. Marcus was in an orphanage where things went south hard, and now someone from his past is hunting the young man with some bleak and dark plans. The violence in this comic is off the charts, to be expected. There is a villain who shows up early on who has a thing for intimacy farm animals that is played for shock value and laughs. That was one of the bits I’m not quite sure about, though the big showdown with this villain is a tense and excitingly plotted moment. Remender does have a gift for these culminating moments that cut between characters but just keep building on each other.
The action is slow here, and it takes a few issues before we feel the momentum kick in. There is surprisingly little going at King’s Dominion though, with most of the plot taking Marcus and his friends off school grounds. It feels like Remender is letting his concept go to waste, but by the end of the book, we get significant hints that the next volume is going to be all about watching things go straight to hell at the school. There are a ton of characters in this series, so after you get a handle on the major ones, it can be a little confusing to remember who is who. I found characters like Saya and Petra to have designs that were a bit too similar to I got them confused a couple of times. The art is perfect for this title with a sense of frantic energy and fluidity to its characters. There’s not an attempt at realism, this is a very impressionistic book, with some especially great drug sequences where artist Wes Craig goes wild.
I can easily see Deadly Class not being to every comic reader’s liking. This is Harry Potter by way of Garth Ennis (Preacher), and if that description has you feeling hesitant, then you probably shouldn’t read the book. It’s by no means perfect, and it doesn’t top Remender’s legendary run on X-Force, but I think this is a surprisingly personal story for him, based on elements of growing up on the fringes as a teenager. I know I enjoyed it enough to keep going and see what happens next.