Deadly Class Book Two: The Funeral Party (2018)
Reprints Deadly Class #17-31
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Wes Craig and Jordan Boyd
Deadly Class: The Funeral Party feels like a much-needed upgrade from the previous entry as we finally get beyond just Marcus’s specific perspective. The action kicks off right away with the freshman class forced into a brutal massacre to determine who moves on to a sophomore year. This is a moment where we really get to know some of the previously marginal players in the story. Shabnam rises to the occasion as a major villain in the series though still having to engage in a tug of war with Viktor and other cliques.
Remender seems to understand how to make his violent moments hit on a profoundly emotional level. There are harrowing sequences where students at King’s Dominion are forced to turn on friends or lovers, and it makes your heart ache. We get lots of backstory for pivotal characters often just before something terrible happens to them. The worst is the betrayals, seeming friends turning on each other because they are terrified of shaming the parents who sent them to King’s intending to make their kids become monsters. It really solidifies Master Lin, the school’s headmaster, as the ultimate villain, forcing children into these situations.
Remender is fully aware of what the images of teenagers running around school hallways shooting and stabbing each other. He knows this is done in a climate of seemingly endless mass shootings and violence happening in schools. But by shifting the focus over and over to the parents of these children were made to think about intergenerational violence. These are the children of bloodthirsty killers and warmongers, they don’t feel like they have any other choice. What’s most interesting are the students who were enrolled under false pretenses; they made it seem like they have killed when they really haven’t shed blood once, and now it is being forced upon them.
After the first arc wraps and the second begins, we are thrown for a loop with a whole new core cast of characters. These are the new freshman at King’s, but that doesn’t mean previous cast members get abandoned. This is a much more interesting group than just having the story focus on Marcus. There’s Quan, a Half-American Half-Vietnamese student who is cocksure and crafty. Helmut is a heavy metal, D&D loving German. Tosawhi is a Native American skater who has difficulty connecting with his classmates. Zenzele is an African student who has anxiety about losing control and killing again. The way these characters interact, bond, and clash make this collection much more compelling.
Of course, there are some major plot twists about two-thirds into the volume. Your enjoyment of the book will likely depend on how you receive those surprises. I don’t think they come entirely out of left-field and are a little telegraphed. At first, I was a bit annoyed with them; they felt like something I would expect to happen, which was disappointing. What makes the shift in the narrative work is how the new students are folded into these older arcs. The dynamics between characters sell it all completely, and without those well-defined, varied personalities, it would have fallen apart.
Deadly Class has me firmly onboard for where ever the series takes us. It is a wild ride, never letting things slow down too much. I can’t see the stories of these characters wrapped up in a traditionally upbeat way, there will be so much tragedy coming down the pike. I think if Remender keeps the pace of this collection for the rest of the series, it will be one of Image Comics’ best.