Thursday, 23 January 2014

New Beginnings - Deadly Class #1

by Matt Puddy

Fresh from Image we have a new book written by Rick Remender. Now for some, Remender’s name immediately conjures thoughts of Fear Agent. For others he is strongly associated with various recent Marvel titles, which may not have been universally well-received, but I’ve liked a number of his previous titles - especially his run on Uncanny X-Force. For those who have recently seen him on the flying-off-the-shelf Black Science (also on Image), then there should be a similar feeling of eager anticipation for this title.

Deadly Class feels like something that could really take off and develop into something more but in the first issue we see the beginnings set back in the Eighties. As a debut issue the best way I could describe it would be the prelude before the film credits. The reader is invited into the world of 14 year old Marcus. A product of the system, now living on the streets. Every day is a depressing struggle, but even through it all he can feel someone watching him and keeping an eye on how and what he is doing. However, a fracas with a homeless man, a sting operation and a bloody chase through a festival lead him to where he was fated to be. He meets the head of the motley crew that saved him, who makes him an audacious and almost unbelievable offer. To study at Kings Dominion School of the Deadly Arts with the potential of becoming one of the worlds finest assassins.

The story itself has been given a little twist and the building up of the back story straightaway on gets the reader invested early. It’s not without similarities to other stories too. There were elements, I felt, of Luc Besson’s Nikita or the more eastern Gantz, which both take individuals from a benign existence and - through one route or another - places them in a position where they are to become killers, willingly or not. Where this differs is that I think the training, stealth and deadly efficiency will be combined with the trials and tribulations of being a teenager in school, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the typical issues that are normally associated with adolescence are also incorporated into it. I hope it doesn’t linger too much on such matters as it unfolds though, as it will risk detract from the main story. The reasoning as to why there is this school hidden away - and more importantly what it is for - remains a mystery after this first issue and has a lot of potential.

Wes Craig is the artist for the title and I have to say that his work is not something that I have seen often. He’s worked across Wildstorm and Marvel titles, but not yet had the prestige of being an established regular for either of the Big Two in the recent reboots and relaunches. What I have liked is that there is variety in his work; he shows that his artistic style can change with the emotion of story. Not only when there are different feelings being shown by the main characters - or lack of in some cases - but in sections such as the dream sequence which is clearly not a comfortable situation.

Although it’s not as colourful as some other comics, with individual pages or spreads being set to a specific colour wash, it is a very engaging piece to read. The devil could be in the details though as he has depicted one of the characters with three quarter sleeves and legs full of tattoos, meaning continuity could be an absolute nightmare.

Fans of Remender should pick up this comic (if they haven’t decided to already), and those who aren’t sure should also grab it as it should change minds. As for me, I’ve been trying to curtail my pull list, but I must say is that titles like this simply don’t make the process easy!

Matt Puddy is getting back on the green.

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