In the second half of last year, I ended up on a somewhat unintentional Rick Remender kick. With the deluxe hardcovers for this series reprinted earlier in the year, I picked up this first one over the summer and it did not disappoint. Then a couple months later I got a great deal on eBay for the first 3 volumes of Black Science (which I loved) and the Seven to Eternity deluxe hardcover released (which I enjoyed, but was my least favourite out of these 3), but I digress.
Deadly Class is one of those series I'd heard about for a long time, before I actually ended up reading it. I don't know how other people feel about these comparisons, but I always heard it as something to read in the same vein as Saga or Invincible or any of those. Modern classic, very popular Image comics from the 2010s. So because of that I was very glad I finally got a chance to check it out here, and especially in the gloriously oversized hardcover format it's in here, which leads nicely into my actual review now I've set the scene with some personal context, as I like to do.
First of all when I use the word "glorious" to describe this collected edition I truly mean it, the word "deluxe" not only means it's oversized compared to a standard sized comic book (and even more oversized than Marvel/DC omnibus and deluxe editions at that) but it's just so cool and satisfying to look at aesthetically. The cover alone is dripping with such distinct, epic style, from the pink looking like wet paint you could touch, the clean, efficient fonts used for the text, to the overall generally bold and striking feel to it. There are similar ideas used on the spine, so it looks so great on my shelf. It's such a nice collection to have, and it's well-priced considering that, at least where I got it from.
Speaking of "dripping with style" secondly the whole aesthetic and atmosphere of the book struck and stood out to me from the start, and then that momentum was so effectively carried through the following 15 issues. There was one spread in particular from #1 that I thought it was phenomenal, and took my breath away. How it was laid out in terms of the panelling and visual storytelling by Wes Craig, the gorgeous coloring by Lee Loughridge (and later on Jordan Boyd towards the end of the set of issues collected here), and the incredible lettering by Rus Wooton. It all just comes together so well, and is indicative of most of this book, where it's such a satisfying reading experience because everything involved is top-notch.
There's an interesting contrast within the art, lettering and overall design of each page. It's fun to have a series that has art with such a rough, gritty and grimey style and texture, with colors that rather than make it drab and boring, as you get sometimes, it's vibrant, exciting and so thrilling. This is especially clear on the single issue covers and how unique and fresh they are, but also of course on the interiors. Under other creators that vibrancy and roughness might clash, but here it feels so full of character, so dynamic, energetic. Lots of the narration is simply layed out on the page, rather than within boxes, and that creates an interesting and compelling read, and possibly contributing to the thematic ideas here of the feeling of being a teenager, especially in such an intense environment here, wanting to be free and without restraint.
Thirdly, and finally, the story goes very well tonally with the mood achieved and conveyed through the artwork. It won't be for everyone, but I thought rather than being generically and stereotypically "dark and gritty" it had a lot of substance to it. It has those elements in its DNA definitely, but it doesn't feel like empty darkness. I know I just said something similar about the art, but it feels like that story wise as well. I thought the main characters we were introduced to here, alongside Marcus, were compelling and interesting, and I enjoyed seeing where their stories and arcs went over the course of this first hardcover. I've realised what I'm trying to say is that Remender is clearly going for something very specific and for what it is I think he, alongside his fantastic co-creators, definitely achieves it.
The half star I took off was for one particular moment that felt so ridiculous and over the top it took me out of the story. I imagine it was the point to be that over the top but it just felt like a weird and gross step too far. It might surprise you what I'm talking about considering the amount of violence in this book, because it's not to do with any of that possibly oddly enough.
Anyway, I would definitely recommend it despite that if you're interested and want to check it out.
If you want to try it you can read the first issue for free on the Image Comics website, under their "Read Free First Issues" section of the site, or I'll directly link it here!
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