Deadly Class volume 7 – Love Like Blood
Image Comics, October 2018
Writer: Rick Remender
In our review of Deadly Class volume 6, we urged writer Rick Remender to allow the story’s protagonist, Marcus, to finally kill the foul Russian named Viktor. The characters are depicted as thoroughly detesting each other. We as Mr Remender’s audience join in that loathing of Viktor. The purpose of good writing is to lure the reader into becoming a stakeholder in the outcome – we barrack loudly, and pray for victory upon our hero over his despicable enemy. In this seventh volume of what has become a watermark for adventure comics writing, Marcus and Viktor finally have their one-on-one Homeric fight to the death, on an empty beach where we alone bear witness, concluding with an odd redemption.
Deadly Class is set in 1988, and features a number of damaged teens with various abilities in dealing, and disparate willingness to deal, in death. They all attend a grim school for youthful assassins located somewhere in the United States. Jumping from Homer to Charles Dickens, Marcus is vaguely akin to the lead character Pip in Dickens’ Great Expectations. Marcus was gifted an opportunity for unexpected reasons, to join a school for assassins, in order to be able to avenge his parents. (Perhaps Mr Remender would be bemused by the analogy to Dickens’ greatest play. There is not much resemblance otherwise.)
As at the end of the last volume, Marcus and other school absentees were holed up on a beach in Mexico, fleeing the school and its corrosive lessons. But the nature of the school body has successively resulted, throughout the story thus far, in lethal fights with Mexican drug cartels, with a gang of dangerous gun-nut rednecks, and a melee against each other in a murderous school-sanctioned hunt. This time around the group fight a (rather ineffectual) team of Yakuza ninjas sent to capture Marcus, backed by bribed Mexican policemen.
Amidst one fight scene is a very amusing homage to legendary American comic book writer Frank Miller. Mr Miller reached the zenith of his success in the 1980s with comics such as The Dark Knight Returns and Daredevil. The latter title featured sinister ninjas in abundance. Marcus battles the horde of ninjas, in a very temporary alliance with:
a. Viktor (who actually looks quite like the Bruno the Nazi corner store bandit from Mr Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns – see the comparison below); and
b. the equally odious racist southerner Brandy, who is slowly bleeding out from a bad stomach wound.
And then, to the delight of Mr Remender’s audience, a familiar internal monologue kicks in. Marcus begins to deliberately give himself a Frank Miller narrative.
The other very notable aspect of this volume is ongoing caution about the moral compass of Marcus. We have discussed Marcus’ failings previously. In previous issues of Deadly Class, Marcus has demonstrated himself capable of betraying and alienating his friends. In this issue, he fails to save a classmate named Petra from being murdered. Petra, a poisons expert, is the girlfriend of Heinrich, a thoughtful German with a penchant for axes and heavy metal music. Marcus had just learned that Petra has killed one of Marcus’ friends in order to get points during the hunt.
Heinrich does not seem so sure that Marcus did enough to try and save Petra. Marcus is not sure, either. It sets the scene for a confrontation between the story’s ostensible hero and one of the story’s more likeable characters.
We have long admired this title. Mr Remender’s greatest success has been translated into a television series. Soon, a wider audience will come to love the characters of Deadly Class, which in our view is probably the best comic book currently in print in the United States.