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Time For the Lessons To Begin in Rick Remender and Wes Craig’s Deadly Class #1

Time For the Lessons To Begin in Rick Remender and Wes Craig’s Deadly Class #1

Deadly Class #1 by Remender and Craig

Deadly Class #1
Written by Rick Remender
Drawn by Wes Craig
Colored by Lee Loughridge
Lettered by Rus Wooton

The world is not what you think it is. That’s actually a fairly standard opening to many coming-of-age stories from Harry Potter to The Matrix and even to Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles and The Filth. Like those stories, Rick Remender and Wes Craig’s Deadly Class #1 begins with an outcast. For Marcus, it doesn’t take long from him to go from a child who has the whole world open to him to being an orphan and lost in the system. Eventually Marcus becomes just another anonymous homeless person, living on the streets of San Francisco. Banged around by humanity, Marcus is just another lost soul until certain people start taking an interest in him.

Deadly Class seems to be in that sweet spot of Image Comics’ high-concept modern action stories. The briskly paced story takes us through Marcus’s childhood and teenage years in a single issue, showing us just how easy it is to fall between the cracks and, worse yet, how simple it is not to notice other people who need help. Craig and colorist Lee Loughridge craft a city that’s full of life but has no use for the life that’s in it. Craig’s linework, a minimalist style similar to David Aja’s on Hawkeye, pops all over the page. He fills the issue with a lot of panels on the pages, bringing you tightly in on the characters and the action. There’s no room to look away from the panels, packed together tightly on a page.

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Craig and Loughridge use the space that they are given to surround you with the story. Where you have to sit back and soak in Aja’s artwork, Craig and Loughridge thrust you into Marcus’s life as more and more people become interested in his unseen skills. As Marcus is chased through a Day of the Dead festival in the Mission District, Craig’s panel designs create the feeling of chaos while his character designs hint at something more than just a simple chase through some crowded streets. With Loughridge’s luminous color palette, she demands your attention, showing you where to go on Craig’s pages. There’s a fine line of between reality and fantasy that Craig and Loughridge walk in this issue, leading you to not necessarily believe everything you see should be taken at face value.

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Marcus is an interesting character. Remender makes him someone who has survival skills and compassion even though the world has essentially forgotten him. It is not like it has even given up on him; the world has just never acknowledged that Marcus was even in it.  It would be easy for Marcus to step off of the edge of a bridge but there is something that’s keeping him in this world, some lessons from his father that don’t let him give up. As Craig and Loughridge create a mostly believable world, Remender does the same until he gets to the secret heart of the story; Marcus is being recruited by a secret school of assassins. They are the unseen forces in this world and while the book never feels solidly set in reality, the ending of the issue does not even leave any room to question the fantasy of the world as Marcus travels down into the earth and descends into his new reality.

Remender’s focus on Marcus as a homeless, disassociated citizen of the world is an interesting opening to this series. Marcus himself is a strong character as he survives on his own. His story is captivating because Remender is showing us something that feels so familiar yet alien. Deadly Class #1 starts off as a “there but for the grace of God go I” story before the action fantasy kicks in and Marcus becomes just another rebel without a cause going to the new Hogwarts. A story about a human being that we could be the ones passing on the street and ignoring turns into a high concept story about a strange and different school with its varied and eclectic student body. The school and everything comes up fast in this issue, leaving you wondering if you’re reading the same comic book at the end of it that you were at the beginning.

Deadly Class #1 is an exciting book that makes you feel for its main character before it goes down a rabbit hole and becomes something different. A humane story turns into some weird type of wish fulfillment as Marcus gets his turn in Hogwarts or Xavier’s School or any other fictional university where he can belong with promises adventures and hijinx. Maybe like Marcus, we are supposed to recognize one world, the real one, before we are thrown into a whole new one where nothing is known to us. Remender and Craig pull the same deceptions on us as they pull on Marcus, leaving us wondering exactly what happened and how did we get here.

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