The first words you'll read in Wes Craig & Rick Remender's DEADLY CLASS: BOOK ONE are "A positive mental attitude is essential to surviving out here." They come from the journal of Marcus Arguello, the main character of the series, as he writes to himself about his status quo: teenaged, orphaned, homeless, upset, depressed, and despairing. He'll soon find himself enrolled in Kings Dominion School of the Deadly Arts, a training ground for assassins and hitmen. Remender & Craig weigh Marcus down with a lot of things over the course of the series—sex, drugs, depression, and violence of all stripes—but that short sentence is something that you should keep coming back to, as a reader. It's what unlocks the secret of DEADLY CLASS.
You can glance through DEADLY CLASS and see that one thing is obviously true: Craig & Remender are making high quality action comics here. The series is set in the '80s, riffs on youth culture of the era, and seamlessly blends in the violent shenanigans that you come to these kinds of comics for. Characters move from discussing The Smiths to slitting throats as easily as you or I would move from talking about music to playing video games. The series stars teens from several different walks of life, with a wide variety of goals, from impressing their stern parents to simply getting the money and power they didn't have access to before now.
Craig's art, with colors by Lee Loughridge and Jordan Boyd, is exceptional. He can draw teens who are gangly, bulky, slim, round, and everything in-between. His action scenes are incredibly dynamic, particularly when he chops a single moment up into several panels, or varies his art style to show how the characters are feeling or want to be perceived.
Remender & Craig together show that comics is a synthesis of writing and art, not one in the service of the other. When things get serious, bodies start dropping and moods begin falling. When characters drop into despair, you can see it in Craig's line. His facial expressions are good, we're all in agreement there, but when you see a character's face ringed by jagged shadows or realize how much emotion Craig is able to wring out of a face that's got two dots for eyes, one dot for a nose, and a screaming mouth, you'll understand exactly what I mean.
"A positive mental attitude is essential to surviving out here."
Marcus is beset by friends, allies, enemies, and most of all, himself. He's been through a lot in his short life, and his enrollment at Kings Dominion cranks the trauma up exponentially. Where he once fought for scraps, he's now fighting for his life against kids that aren't too different than he is. That is an incredible amount of pressure to survive under, and over the course of DEADLY CLASS: BOOK ONE, you'll see how Marcus handles it. Does he maintain his positive attitude and thrive? Does he collapse under the pressure, twisting into a new shape he never expected? Keep those questions in mind while you read. It's interesting that Marcus knows the secret to surviving in this world, but doesn't always take his own advice.
DEADLY CLASS: BOOK ONE is available now.