Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Deadly Class, Volume 1: Reagan Youth

I've said it before, but it seems to me that Rick Remender is everywhere in comics these days. Reagan Youth is the first volume of the ongoing series Deadly Class, collecting issues 1-6. Deadly Class is set in 1987. It stars Marcus Lopez Arguello as the protagonist, a teenage Nicaraguan immigrant living in San Francisco. After his parents' deaths, he finds himself bouncing around the social services circuit, and ends up homeless.
After a few months on the streets, with no prospects or hope, somehow he gets recruited to attend the underground King’s Dominion High School for the Deadly Arts, a school for assassins. This school is more like a prison, with various violent cliques vying for power among the student body. Also, they have classes about such things as poisoning, beheading, and assassin psychology. I think of it as a sort of Harry Potter meets Oz type of tale.

I thought that the story was full of intriguing twists and turns, and I also found myself interested in a good number of the characters and their motivations. Remender speaks about how he drew from his own youthful experiences in this series, and that attention to personal detail is apparent. He also collaborates well with artists Wes Craig and Lee Loughridge on storytelling that well balances atmosphere, action, and personal drama. I think that this book is full of great action sequences and stylized, suspenseful scenes that create a general vibe of coolness, kind of like a contemporary, comic book version of the 1999 movie Go. I had a lot of fun reading this book.

The reviews I have read about it have been largely positive. Publishers Weekly was unimpressed with Remender's story, calling it too interested in "gratuitous thrills," but they did find favor with "Craig’s appealing artwork" and "Loughridge’s European-style color palette." Barry Thompson called it "a tale that’s equal parts empathetic and fucking terrifying." Marcus Deehan concluded, "If you like the sound of a grittier, more vulgar Harry Potter or Naruto, or if you enjoyed Resevoir Dogs, Rockstar’s Canis Canum Edit or maybe even Freak and Geeks then I recommend you pick up a copy and give it a read."

Reagan Youth was published by Image Comics, who have previews and much more available here. The series is currently at issue 10. This book contains profanity and frequent violence, so I recommend it for readers old enough to handle both.

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