With Marcus and Maria about to return to the hallowed halls of King’s Dominion School for the Deadly Arts, Deadly Class: Killer Set takes a look back at their freshmen year. It was a simpler time when Marcus was trying to figure out his place in the world among all these killers. The home he found was with the outcasts, rebels, and weirdos. No one else wanted them, but they wanted each other. It’s kind of sweet if you forget for a minute that they go to a school to learn how to kill people.
While it’s great to see some of these characters interact again, especially since some of them are currently very much dead, the real scene stealer in Deadly Class: Killer Set has to do with Viktor, the Russian brute with a chip on his shoulder. He’s always been the bully in this series, like the Soviet Johnny Lawrence to Marcus’ Daniel LaRusso, but what if that could have changed? More importantly, what makes Viktor tick?
Let’s answer the second question first, as we’re given a glimpse inside his mind, not in terms of internal narration, but with actions. Viktor is given an opportunity for revenge and he takes it. Since he’s a kid, this is still shocking and terrifying to him. As such, the act is clumsy and more than a little messy.
Artist Wes Craig turns in another monumental piece of work in this book, juxtaposing the violence of Viktor’s kill with the madness of Marcus and the others at a punk rock concert. There are some pages with fifteen panels on them, each showing a close up of action, either with blood and bullets or punches and kicks.
Craig has a way of bringing action to life in such a riveting fashion. Your eyes will be glued to the page from the sheer intensity of these sequences. I swear, there are times when the images are moving. It’s that good.
Colorist Jordan Boyd complements Craig’s pencils very well, taking that tense feeling up to eleven. He also adds to the contrast between the two scenes, with Viktor’s attacks shown in bright red while Marcus is in a deep blue. This further distances the two characters, such that when the events are over and they’re in the same place again, the figurative space between them is huge. One has crossed over and came into his own as a killer while the other is still mired in second guesses.
This was definitely the highlight of Deadly Class: Killer Set. A large chunk of the book has Marcus lamenting in his internal narration or to anyone that will listen about his plight in life. Granted, he has a lot to complain about, but this reads like a high school student that’s taken one or two philosophy classes and thinks he knows how the world works. On the one hand, this is very real and I’m sure there are millions of teenagers who feel this way, but on the other, it can be a slog to read through.
The dialogue that stands out are not these verbose thoughts on life, but the simple conversations between some of the characters. Since we know where they end up, including how some of them don’t make it out of that school alive, this makes for some pretty somber and touching moments, such as Maria’s longing look at Marcus on the dance floor with Saya. Letterer Rus Wooton peppers in these smaller chats in a natural way, keeping them moving at a quick pace.
With a TV show on Syfy and the series reaching some pretty big moments, it’s a no-brainer for Image to put a Deadly Class book out for Free Comic Book Day. The fact that it’s a completely original tale and not a reprint is another big plus. I’m just not sure this is the best way to introduce people to these characters or this comic. Writer Rick Remender definitely has a plan for them and we get to the good stuff eventually, but we have to sift through a whole lot of chatter to get there. A new reader might be put off by this and that would be very unfortunate because Deadly Class is one of the best comics on the stands right now.
Deadly Class: Killer Set from Image Comics is a Free Comic Book Day title, available for free at participating comic book shops.