Homeless, alone and plagued by an as-yet-mysterious past, Marcus Lopez aimlessly wandered the streets of San Francisco for months until a police chase delivered him right into the hands of Saya, a pupil at Kings Dominion School of the Deadly Arts. Rick Remender and Wes Craig spend a good amount of time fleshing out their protagonist in their debut of “Deadly Class,” but the issue is not without its fair share of action and intrigue. “Deadly Class” #1 makes a strong showing with its compelling exposition, dynamic layouts and dark, gritty edge.
“Deadly Class” #1 contains a story very different from the one teased in solicits, but that doesn’t make the issue any less effective. Instead of diving right into the action, Remender pulls back and introduces readers to Marcus one moment at a time, using a diary to expand on his character and develop his voice. This is a great device that not only provides a reasonable explanation for the book’s conversational narrative but also gives a reason as to why Marcus’ story is being told at all. Remender highlights the journal’s importance by subtly drawing attention to it in several key scenes, through Marcus’ violent reaction when a homeless man tries to steal it and his willingness to go back for it under gunfire. In doing this, Remender shows that this is really, truly Marcus’ story right off the bat; while the acrobatics and action sequences are visually stunning and exciting, the core of the story very much revolves around Marcus’ journey. Because of this, Remender achieves a very personal tone that feels natural and appropriate to its era.
Although there’s a lot of Marcus’ background in this issue, Remender doesn’t reveal everything about him in one go. He leaves just enough of Marcus’s past in the shadows to keep readers interested; the issue, with its great depth, maintains a “tip of the iceberg” atmosphere regardless. What’s more, although the selected scenes of Marcus’s life feel disjointed and aimless in much the same way Marcus’s personality is, the story pulls off a very collected feeling as all of the scenes weave together for the issue’s climax.
Wes Craig absolutely rocks on art with full, articulate figure work filling every panel. Even background characters are fully fleshed out in busy scenes, like the Day of the Dead parade, populated by a vast array of diverse figures. The scenery is carefully wrought; Craig captures the city feel in the crowded streets and the homeless refuse that Marcus finds himself part of. Craig’s actions scenes are fluid, aided greatly by his powerful layouts. A lot of information gets packed into each page, but Craig parses it out in a neat, visually compelling way with smaller boxes that focus on important objects or actions.
Particular moments stand out for their stunning conceptualization, like the focus on the dancer during the chase scene, leaving the reader with the strong impression that it’s like a beautiful if dangerous dance. Craig’s glimpse into Marcus’ past switches the style slightly to great effect, altering Marcus’ perception as he glimpses into a hazy past as if reflecting the deterioration of youthful memories. Likewise, Lee Loughridge’s colors give the book its distinct feel, filling pages with a gorgeous, largely monochromatic scheme. My only complaint rest with Saya’s washed out coloring later in the issue, which — though distinct — makes her look a bit like a scary clown.
“Deadly Class” #1 is just another awesome book in Image’s long list of great titles. Remender and Craig leave a lot to be mined with their newest pseudo-realistic thriller. This is a read that won’t disappoint.