by Rick Remender, Wes Craig, and Lee Loughridge
The second arc of Deadly Class, taking place a bit after the events of the opening story, certainly has a different tone. After the bombastic adventure that readers went on with Marcus and the crew of Kings Dominion, Marcus and those around him seem to be focused on their personal lives, and the day to day at the secret boarding school. After some difficult interactions between Marcus, Maria and Saya, the eighth chapter of Deadly Class jumps backwards a bit to bring readers up to speed on Marcus and Chester.
Maybe it was effect of too much at once that the final moments of the showdown in Vegas passed by somewhat subtly. After the insanity of the events that transpired there, the chase sequence and the showdown between the group and Chico, the final moments felt like relief. After pages of the story moving at break-neck speed, things appeared to slow and settle. But what is apparent in this new arc is that the final moments are lining these stories. It is in this direction that the reminder of what transpired in that ally comes creeping back. Whether intended or not, that effect of Remender’s writing certainly exists in his other works. Just as the moments, choices and actions haunt the lives of his characters so too do they act on the audience. Here, Saya approaches Marcus on the rooftop with information about who has Chico’s body and where they may find him. She claims that she deserves to know more about this person, and Marcus hands her his journal from that year.
The story does not skip backwards too far, a fact that is somewhat surprising. Considering where Marcus is and his demeanor when Deadly Class picks up, it feels as though more time would have existed between his first days on the street and when readers met him. Wes Craig’s art throughout the issue is excellent, but the pull in through the overhead perspective is an excellent opening to this flashback. Similarly, Lee Loughridge drenches the opening moments of this sequence in a yellow hue to round out the visual aesthetic. With the bits of information readers have about Marcus’ past, the opening moments are instantly effective in establishing his state of mind and the conditions of the group home he has been in for nearly a decade. The introduction to the time period comes through a scene in which Marcus is attempting to conceal pins they are using at their individual work stations for something that will help him escape. The combination of where he chooses to store them and the paucity of details surrounding his plans over several pages make this rather compelling. Then add in the proceeding moments when the pins are noticed as missing and Marcus and his table mate are questioned. Craig has done a great job of depicting violence but avoiding grotesque and gory visuals. Here, again, he depicts the body of Marcus, scared and battered, for reasons left to the imagination. It is not off-putting and yet very effective. Once again, Remender’s choice to avoid telling the reader much lets the images that Craig and Loughridge render weigh heavier.
Over the course of the issue, readers get to see the teenage version of The Shawshank Redemption as Marcus pulls his plans together to make his escape and leave a lasting impression to change his boarding school for good. As always with Deadly Class, the issue is fantastically paced, engaging and suddenly and amazingly heavy. While flashback stories can sometimes feel like a halt in the progress or a tangent, Remender clues readers in to Chester’s character and his relationship with Marcus at exactly the right time and with a story that is as much about Marcus as it is about Chester. The smart pacing and hinting at some baggage of Marcus’ has been around in the previous issues, but nothing so frequent or obvious as to give away what this issue may hold. Wes Craig continues to match Remender page after page in skill and the book has a number of fantastic images, from the large head of Mistress Ranks beneath a crucifix to the small and implicit images of violence and horror. Partnered with and complimented by the talents of Lee Loughridge, the book, for as unsettling as it may be, is continuously an ambitious and exciting read.