Deadly Class Vol. 1: Reagan Youth by Rick Remender
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Another fine Indy feature from the wonderful folks of Humble Bundle and the great creative minds at Image…
Rick Remender is one of my faves, (X-Force, Venom, Fear Agent) so after reading great reviews from both Kat (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show…) and Jeff (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show…), I added it to my Must Reads.
Lo and Behold, the wonderful and happy coincidence that it was included in the 2nd Image Humble Bundle I bought a while back!
So load it up to the iPad, and away we go!
It started off well, muted colours, kinda sepia tones, or just minimal colours per page, so the polar opposite of SAGA (at least until the Acid Trip). It had lots of colours sure, but the way they were laid out made it look muted and dull, which fit the feel of the book.
Marcus is a homeless teen, and we see the horrific backstory that led him to where he was. I found this to be some of the strongest writing in the whole collection, and giving a powerful reality to the struggle of people in Reagan era America. Especially the part about cutting funds to mental health facilities, which lead to releasing 100s-1000s of unstable, unwell people onto the streets with literally no where else to go.
We see Marcus is struggling, but we also see an early instance of him holding onto his humanity in the heat of the moment, which I believe is important for context in the rest of the book.
This is not fun, funny, or anything like that; I expected some cool riff on the Breakfast Club with Assassins, and it does have the cliques and such, but there’s not much lightness…for example:
“Happiness is just the absence of pain. It’s the best I can hope for.”
Wow. That’s heavy. RR is usually a bit more fun, light than this when he mixes in the serious stuff, usually there’s a balance.
The book then shifts into overdrive of hyper-violence and shitty situations for Marcus, when he finds himself admitted to a training academy for assassins…and the thing is, that’s actually the best thing that could happen to him.
We get hints at Marcus’ actions before the book begins, so we know he’s not snow white squeaky clean, but given the traumatic events that befell (haha little joke) his parents…it’s no wonder. I think this might be more like what would have happened to Bruce Wayne if he didn’t have billions of dollars and a support system. Just food for thought here…
Then it takes a right turn, into an examination of High School, and the metaphorical survival fight to make it through in one piece.
You might call Marcus self-destructive, but then again, given his outlook on how bullshit society is, I could see myself behaving in similar ways at certain points, if I had seen what he saw and had the same context of life.
The last few issues seem kinda bogged down with too much over the top violence and crazy shit fueled by six tabs of strong acid, but when you think you’ll die tomorrow, fuck, why not take six hits? Especially if you think it’s not the real thing.
Marcus makes enemies, and sort of friends, but he also reveals himself to be utterly pragmatic about it, that it’s a societal requirement for survival, not a choice for pleasant company. Brutal, but true in this context.
I wasn’t enjoying it too much because it was just not fun, it was heavy and dark and kinda rather depressing, so I thought maybe it was a DC book (haha!). But then by the end of the volume, Marcus’ main antagonist has revealed himself from his past, and he’s found a new renewal of interest in living, having been surrounded by all the death.
Perversely, the uber violence did something in him that made him long for a return to the tranquility and peace of innocence, even though it’s long gone in that regard, he seems to abandon his nihilism by the end and decide he’s just somewhat interested in wanting to live.
I was going to give this 3 stars at first, because I felt like it kinda lost the plot and went downhill for me from a promising start…
But then I read Rick Remender’s afterward, and he spells it out pretty much that this book is an amped up metaphorical look at his High School years and experience, and the rampant violence and outsider status he himself lived through.
If you think comic writers are just dweebs and geeks and nerds, then check this out:
“Phoenix was a violent place in the late 80s early 90s, and standing out in a city like that led to numerous beatings, stabbings and shootings amongst my friends. I’ve seen a man shot in the head, I had a friend shot in the back while trying to flee a gunfight, had a friend overdose on heroin before he shot himself in the head, another was stabbed, and I was personally jumped and brutally beaten by gangbangers twice.
Violence was just something you got used to being around.”
That was Rick’s own words from the afterward.
Holy shit. I think I only saw like 5 fights in my whole high school experience.
After that, I realized what a personal piece of work Deadly Class is, and why it’s so violent and filled with what otherwise would be insanity; maybe it’s some sort of catharsis for him? I hope so, and that’s the joy of creator-owned and independent works, they come from a very real place.
So kudos for sharing your story with us Rick, and by being open about it, I was able to understand it a lot better.
This isn’t your usual Rick Remender, but if you like his work, you owe it to him to read this.
View all my reviews