The creative team of Deadly Class continues to raise the bar for what pulse-pounding, life-or-death action should feel like on a comic page. I bought the first volume of Deadly Class on a whim (I'm going somewhere with this, I promise). I was loving everything Remender was writing outside of Marvel at the time (save for the hobo piss tweet, though now that some time has passed, it's at least a little funny) and Loughridge's color work made the whole book for me. I lent it to an Iranian friend who had never read a graphic novel and her response was "I really liked it; but why they [comics] are all so violent?"
Of course, they aren't all so violent; but, I think the perception of mainstream comics from the outside really comes with that "BAM! BIFF! POW!" connotation such that comics and dude-punching are conceptually inseparable. Deadly Class is particularly violent, even when considered from an outside perspective. And, during its current arc where the students have officially been set loose to hunt each other, things have somehow managed to get darker, grittier, and bloodier than they've ever been.
This newest issue really isn't for the faint of heart: innocent bystanders are getting gunned down left and right. And, to be honest with you, I feel a little weird setting such a sadly low bar for that kind of sadistic, puerile level of violence given the kind of shit that's been going on in my country (USA! USA!) for the past year. Deadly Class manages to get away with this kind of depiction because the creative team is really selling this as a sick, sadistic, and puerile world unto itself; in other words, it's easy to read the violence in Deadly Class as making sense in its own context, without that cheapening the effect it has on the kids in the story, or what that violence sometimes says about our society. Still, if seeing people get pointlessly gunned down is not something you want from your comic for any reason, I completely understand that and, as a person who is interested in his own mental health, I find myself frequently asking if this is the kind of shit I should really be reading. Right now the answer is yes. That might change.
Craig and Boyd continue to put together a world where that violence takes place just about as beautifully as it could on a comics page. Watching the actions sequences in Deadly Class must be really depressing for the majority of people working at the Big 2: these actions sequences are diverse in their framing, angles, colors, and feel. Remender's brisk, unforgiving, bloody pace is completely matched by Craig's layouts and Boyd's ability to set the tone with color.
Letterer Rus Wooton continues to do stellar work, matching the brisk pace of the rest of the creative team without ever intruding. His work is really a feat if you consider that Deadly Class frequently oscillates between very wordy, and not wordy whatsoever: the transition rarely feels like a balloon barrage. Additionally, one of the best sequences (and my favorite single panel) proves that Wooton is an absolute star at producing and placing SFX at critical junctures.
In a lot of ways, the violence in Deadly Class isn't really senseless since you ought to be buying into the absurdly violent circumstances these kids have been forced into and their resultant need to survive. To the creative team's credit, the tragic bits of this story always feel tragic, and they are doing a stellar job of depicting this high-stakes, high-octane drama one issue after the other.
Deadly Class #19 Writer: Rick Remender Artist: Wes Craig Colorist: Jordan Boyd Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.50 Print/$3.99 Digital Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital