I’m reading Deadly Class, and I hate the main character. It’s hard not to draw comparisons between Deadly Class’s Marcus and Holden from The Catcher in the Rye. They, whoever “they” are, say you should read Catcher as a teen, but avoid it as an adult. After a point all that teen angst just seems childish. I can’t help but feel like I’m just too old for Deadly Class. Marcus thinks he’s got everything figured out, yet he’s blissfully self-unaware. I just want to smack him. And here I am trying to figure out if I even enjoy reading about this character I detest. The thing is, Remender writes a character that’s absolutely honest. In the letter sections he speaks openly about some of the autobiographical nature of the story, and it shows. I hate Marcus, but I absolutely see chunks of myself in him. The damn thing is entrancing. Spoilers ahead.
The second story arc focuses primarily on Marcus’s history in the orphanage and with his wonderful ex-roommate “Fuckface.” For me, the whole Fuckface plot is fairly ordinary. It’s the fun, violent part; but it doesn’t move me one way or the other. This story works because of the focus on Marcus’s love triangle, and his relationships with the growing cast. Marcus is with Maria out of some sort of Wookie-esque life debt, but when Saya starts showing interest he can’t say no. There’s a great scene where Saya takes Marcus to a show and gets him to slam dance. I know I’ve seen this sort of scene before (though I couldn’t tell you where), but it works great in this instance. Saya pretty much says to Marcus what I’ve been thinking, “Quit being so fucking judgmental of everything and you might actually have some fun for a change.” Then we get perhaps my favorite panel of this arc when Marcus lets loose and dances. No words needed. Craig and Loughridge just capture it perfectly.
The love triangle works as a device because we get to see Marcus show remorse. Maria’s obsessed with him the same way he’s obsessed with Saya. It’s bound to end with someone getting hurt, but since this is Deadly Class the drama’s a bit more deadly. I’m particularly pleased that the love triangle actually leads to Saya and Maria being fleshed out as characters. The final issue gives us a few scene from both Maria’s and Saya’s perspectives, and it feels like the cast of Deadly Class is starting to take shape. Maria actually owns up to manipulating Marcus and seems to want to move beyond him; she’s more than a girl obsessing over a boy. Saya’s selfish and disinterested in love; she wants to enjoy life at whatever cost. Maybe I’m just a sucker for love triangles, but Deadly Class isn’t a book to dwell on teenage romantic uncertainty–Deadly Class isn’t slowing down.
It’s not all birds and bees after all. Remender and Craig aren’t afraid to get into some sick shit. Fuckface’s defining trait is that he fucks animals. The punk elements of the book are more than window dressing, because Remender and Craig are not holding back. Some of it’s just for shock, but it never quite feels like it’s just for shock. Deadly Class is set in a disgusting world, and it seems to leak out of every pore so that I’m relieved to get away from it when given the chance. Whether it’s Mistress Rank, Master Lin, or Fuckface, these kids are always trapped by one ugly person or another. Even in a lighter moment Marcus is shitting himself, but even then it’s just sad. Remender and Craig craft a world that’s grotesque, but that I want to see these characters overcome.
Craig and Loughridge bring it all to life with their art. Craig has created a lot of intriguing characters here. He’s put together a clique-ish high school setting with some manga influence. I can’t see the streaks of light behind the motorcycles and not think instantly of Akira. Few characters can be described as nice to look at, Saya and Maria mostly, the rest are just weird. Fuckface is obvious, but even Marcus has a bit of a lanky alien look to him. Looking at Craig’s other work it’s obvious he’s pulling from somewhere new for Deadly Class. Of course Loughridge plays a humongous part in the entire look, especially how he dominates a panel or even a page with a single color. Loughridge is much more concerned with controlling a page’s mood than anything else. While in All-New X-Factor I found this style tiring after awhile, in Deadly Class it feels like Loughridge is really in sync with Remender and Craig. Loughridge is fully engaged with the book, and the results speak for themselves. This is a grotesque book at times, but it’s always beautiful, and it’s packed with energy.
The second story arc has me reassured that Deadly Class is headed somewhere good. Writing this Arc Reaction has led to me actually enjoying this book considerably more than when I initially finished Deadly Class #11, and that’s one of the biggest compliments I can give. When a book get’s better the more I look at it, that’s something special. There are still things I would like to see, don’t get me wrong. Fuckface worked as a villain, and the showdown was absolutely astonishing, but he still felt cartoonish at times and as if he needed a tad bit more development. My complaints feel nitpicky. I’m not absolutely in love with Deadly Class, but I have an immense respect for it, and I can’t wait to see where it’s going.