For a lot of us, the thought of school was the WORST. Tedious homework, boring classes, droning teachers and the awkward social situations. Thankfully, comics and TV have come through to make school fun (and murder-y?) again!
Warning! There will be SPOILERS up ahead.
From the Page…
The comic series Deadly Class is written by Rick Remender with art by Wesley Craig. For this article, I’ll be tackling volume 1 of Deadly Class titled “Reagan Youth”, which collects issues 1 through 6. The story follows teenage orphan Marcus Arguello, a homeless vagabond thrust into a secret society of drugs, assassin classmates, killer teachers, murderous curriculum and a ton of 80’s pop references. When we meet Marcus, he’s literally trying to survive the streets, begging for change, stealing wallets, and at his lowest, considered suicide. Through flashbacks, we find out that Marcus is in his predicament because of a horrible accident that killed his parents: a recently released mental asylum patient threw themselves off a bridge, landing on and killing both of Marcus’ parents and changing his life in one fell swoop. From there, he goes to a boys’ home and its heavily implied that he did something terrible to the school that ends with him becoming homeless and chased by the police. His notoriety comes with an unexpected benefit: his actions have caught the attention of Master Lin and his school: King’s Dominion. King’s Dominion is a school that trains the next generation of master criminals; the sons and daughters of assassins, spies, Cartels, Triad, and LA gangs. After enrolling and surviving his first few days of school, the rest of the book’s cast is introduced: Saya the Japanese assassin, Willie, borne from the toughest LA street gang, deadly and beautiful Maria, Chico the ruthless cartel heir, the brutish Russian Viktor and a slew of other colorful characters.
You’d think that a school with such curriculum would be rife with intrigue, espionage, and double crossing. However, what I found most appealing about the read is that the drama lies on the fact that these are teens full of self-loathing, low self-esteem, hormones and enormous chips on their shoulders. Of course the action comes after said issue boil to the top and explode. Let’s get to what works and what doesn’t work for this comic:
WRITING: Remender’s writing is sharp and witty as ever. For a concept that’s not too far to grasp, a lot of the book’s strength is in its characters and their mysterious histories.. The way that actual history is weaved into the fabric of the story is also admirable and history buffs will definitely get a kick out of all the nods to a bygone era. This might also be a detriment, as younger readers might not get all the references, but this is a small aside, since all things are just a Wiki search away. Otherwise, the writing is top notch and beautifully concise. Remender seems to be able to give each character a distinct voice, and it shows on the pages. As easy as it would be to make each student a caricature, Remender instead allows each person some nuance and growth. The characters all have potential for wild stories of murder and mayhem, yet they’re still rooted in actual human emotion.
Last word on the writing: as a dad, I do have to warn that the language is not for young readers, so do use your discretion if you’re letting your kids read this.
ART: Wesley Craig’s stylized art is great compliment to Remender’s writing. Light on details yet heavy with emotions, the art of Deadly Class truly invokes the kind of reckless youth aesthetic the story demands.
Final Grade: B+
This is a great book that everyone can pick up and enjoy quickly, with an interesting premise with a cast of characters worth investing in. Definitely worth it.
…To The Screen
How does the television adaptation hold up against the source material? Is the 100+ hours of television worth your binge?
In 2018, The SyFy channel produced and televised the live-action adaptation of Deadly Class. The first big casting news were for the roles of Master Lin and student-assassin Saya. The role of Master Lin went to character actor Benedict Wong, who you might know from playing Wong in the Doctor Strange and Avengers movies. After her star making turn in “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before”, Lana Condor was tapped to play the role of Saya, the assassin with ties to the Japanese mafia. The lead role of Marcus Lopez went to newcomer Bejamin Wadsorth. The television series loosely follows the events of volume 1 of the comic, as Marcus is thrust into his new life of assassins and killers after being orphaned at a young age. The mood of the show is justly very grim and dark, appropriate for the nihilistic attitude of our protagonists. The show is well acted by the very young crew, playing daftly to their 80’s and 90’s student stereotypes. Your Russian muscle-headed jock, your sexy yet explosive Latina, an Asian American femme fatale, the doofy sidekick, and the fish-out-of-water transfer student. Although they are playing archetypes, it’s their reaction and conduct in this murder world that sets it apart from other teen-angst shows.
The plot of the show takes a good amount of trips, turns, and more tripping (acid and otherwise), keeping the audience on their toes. For all the characters introduced, there are also a handful of antagonists for them to fight. If there’s anything the show flubs, it’s that they throw rows and rows of enemies at King’s Dominion, and all seem to have great motivation, yet they are underserved or underdeveloped to get to the next big bad guy. Overall, it’s a great binge with sad and morose characters. Your enjoyment will depend on your tolerance for teen angst, romantic triangles and samurai sword decapitations.
Top of the Class
For all the sword swinging, gun shooting and bomb exploding, who stood out for me? Lana Condor is a gem as Saya, as she acts her way through some tough dialog and exposition, but my gold star has to go to the teachers of King’s Dominion. Particular shout out to Henry Rollins as Jurgen Denke, Poisons teacher and French Stewart, as the permanently chained psychopath Scorpio Slasher, who also happens to teach Fundamentals of Psychopathy. Among the other teachers, these two have great stand-alone moments with the gang as they dive deep into what makes a criminal, why criminals behave the way they do, and how King’s Dominion is not what it seems to be.
UPDATE: I started this draft back in February (SHEESH!) when show’s future was still in the air. It was unfortunately announced this past June that the show would not return to SYFY, effectively getting cancelled. It sucks that a show I enjoyed got cancelled unceremoniously, with a huge cliffhanger of an ending that will likely never be resolved. However, I’m thankful to even get the chance to watch something so fun, violent and off the wall for one season. I encourage all our readers to watch, binge, and sing about your favorite quirky ‘genre’ television, because their fates are usually tied to ‘likes’ and ‘clicks’ and ads instead of quality. With that, class is dismissed.