DEADLY CLASS #4
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Wes Craig & Lee Loughridge
Published by Image Comics
Release Date: April 30th, 2014
What happens when a group of teenage kids from a school for assassins decide to take an impromptu road trip to Las Vegas to kill someone? Well that question is answered as Rick Remender and Wes Craig bring to life another memorable issue of Deadly Class.
Over the course of the first four issues of Deadly Class writer Rick Remender has constantly taken what one would expect from a story about teenagers at school, and turned the concept on its head while delivering some gut wrenching, emotionally powerful, and dark stories. Despite the twists and turns, the murder, the beastiality and all around darkness, the book has still remained a book about being a teenager. The difference between this book, and almost every other book featuring teenage leads, is that Remender is not afraid to show the darkest side of growing up. The characters in Deadly Class aren’t your normal teenagers. These kids have been through some dark times, and have seen some bad things. The consequences of which have been put on full display, and issue four is no different in this regard.
Following the brutal turn of events at the end of issue three, Marcus is reprimanded for killing an innocent man, and is ultimately sentenced to a week of solitary confinement. It isn’t too long before Saya breaks Marcus out, and the entire group is headed on a road trip to Las Vegas to kill Billy’s dad. As you can imagine not everything goes as planned, as the issue opens up with Marcus being questioned by a cop that seems to take place in the near future before flashing back to how it all started. On the first page a reference is made to Hunter S. Thompson, and his book Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas. For a few pages it seemed like the reference was just a throwaway, but by the end of the issue it is clear that Remender was going for the full on Thompson experience. The book turns into a drug fueled romp from the time the cocaine is pulled out early to the moment the characters start tripping on Acid, and right on through to the last page. As I mentioned above though, the book still feels like a book about teenagers. At its heart this issue is about a road trip where our core group of characters bond, and Remender uses the opportunity to explore the core group dynamic of these kids amidst all of the drugs. Marcus has a crush on one girl, while the other girl has a crush on him. Billy has daddy problems, and you have jealous boyfriends on the prowl. All of these problems are stereotypical teenage problems, but when looked at through the eyes of emotionally damaged assassins in training they all feel new and fresh. Through this perspective these issues are made all the more interesting. The deeply damaged Marcus is attracted to a cop killer. Then Maria’s attracted to Marcus, but her jealous boyfriend Chico is the son of the biggest cartel leader in South America. Billy wants to handle his problems with his dad by having him killed. That’s not to say that the issue is all doom and gloom. The script stays dark, but there are some moments of humor that help balance out the tone of the issue.
Once again artist Wes Craig is given a lot of fun material to work with, and he continues to excell in every facet of the artistic process. The obvious standout in the issue is the take on the Vegas Strip, as the kids head to Circus Circus for their stay. At this point everybody is on acid, and Craig really plays up the aforementioned Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas vibe, as some of the pages look like they could come straight from the movie adaption. Not enough can be said about the colors used by Lee Loughridge on these pages as well. The combined work of Craig and Loughridge on these pages result in a look that truly captures the hallucinogenic properties of what tripping balls alongside the bright lights of Vegas would actually be like. It’s bright, weird and flat out scary. You can buy the fear on Marcus’ face as he hallucinates clowns and Ronald Regan talking to him. These are far from the only standout pages though. There is also a great double splash page of the Grateful Dead concert in the desert, as Marcus is making a drug deal. Another aspect that makes the art truly stand out is the overall design work of each page. The layouts in general are absolutely stunning. There’s not much else like it in comics, and the team of Craig and Loughridge deserve as much accolades for their artistic performance as Remender does for his daring approach to writing the book.
Deadly Class has several levels of storytelling that can be peeled back like an onion, and that is a testament to a creative team that is firing on all cylinders. Even in an issue where the sole goal seems to be to bring the core group of characters together to bond, it is done so in a daring, innovative way. As in each of the previous three issues, the shocking moments, in this case the heavy drug use, are used to illustrate a deeper point about how damaged these kids are. That’s what this book is ultimately about; messed up kids who have fallen between the cracks attempting to survive in a world that has treated them like shit. Deadly Class is a powerful, must read book, and there is really nothing like it in comics
The Verdict: 10/10