And here we go. The end to the latest arc of Deadly Class, the best in the series so far in my opinion, has featured plenty of good development with the supporting cast, twists and excitement, and a whole lot of dead teenagers. What happens now? Is it good?
Deadly Class #21 (Image Comics)
This is the end of the line for several characters. Not everyone is walking away as confrontations are cropping up all over the place. Who will be left over at the end of this unpleasantness and who is still worth caring about?
As one may expect given how everything was built up — this is one hell of a finale. Lots of characters are dead by the end, including one that I’m extremely happy about personally, and the direction for where this book will go now is up in the air. Deadly Class #21 is intense, nerve wracking, and keeps you on the edge of your seat. If you’ve been loving the series up until now, you’ll be very shocked and wrapped up in all of the craziness. Even someone like me, who’s been kind of cynical about the comic, could not pry my eyes away from each page. What happens here will stick with you and by the end, you’ll be left speechless and dumbfounded by the whole affair. It’s very rare that I find a series is able to do that.
Besides the shock factor, there are two big strengths to the issue: the characterization and the artwork. Rick Remender crafts some very fine, indelible moments in the book. Billy breaking down and talking about his dad to Petra, the scene on the rooftop between Marcus and Willie, and Petra finally opening up about her past — they’re all powerful and emotional bits. You understand the characters, how they ended up the way they did, and how they reached each decision in the end. Even Marcus, someone who I really dislike and found to be grating, came out looking good here and evoked plenty of sympathy. When he cuts it out with the crassness and pseudo-maturity, Remender can really make his characters very human and three-dimensional.
Then there is Wes Craig’s artwork, who only helps to amplify the strong characterization in the book. He knows how to perfectly angle each panel and capture the right emotion in each scene, oftentimes establishing the tone or mood far beyond the dialogue. For instance, there’s a small flashback with Billy where he explains what his father said to him as a child and it looks great. He’s shown as a little kid and his father speaks directly to him head on, but with each passing panel, his father grows bigger and more imposing in Billy’s perspective. It just sells you on how Billy must have felt at the moment, being so little and scared. While I’m still iffy on the art style itself, Craig does well with drawing each character in their normal states as well, conveying all of their feelings and emotion perfectly. Some of the backgrounds are featureless voids and there is one bit where it looks like a panel was copied and pasted, but it’s not something that takes away from the experience. It’s a good looking book that sells what happens in all of its haunting and brutal glory.
Now, once the shock of everything wears off and you really start thinking about the story, problems start to arise. Now we’ll be dealing with heavy spoilers here in the Nays section, because there’s no way I can really comment on the issues with the comic without hitting on the plot points. The first thing to mention is all of the character death. We lost most of the supporting cast and even Marcus by the end of the issue, leaving us only with villains and Saya. Petra survived, but it turns out she’s a traitor and kind of off. The issue with all of this is… who is there left to care about? Who is there left to get attached to or get invested in? The best and most well developed characters are all dead by the end and all there are left are characters that give us no reason to get invested in them. They’re all traitors or vicious monsters with no shred of charisma or complexity. One may say that we still have Saya, but unfortunately, Remender has done very little with her. She’s just been the token mysterious character with a troubled past that’s been thoroughly undeveloped and who’s mostly been used to be a part of a love triangle. Remender will have to do a lot of work with her, because she’s all that there is left and there really isn’t much there in general.
Father of the Year contender folks!
The characterization has been good, but unfortunately, it came across as it was just there to make the shocking moments more powerful than to actually develop the cast. Four characters got significant character moments or development in this issue: Marcus, Billy, Willie, and Petra. Three of them are dead. Marcus has been a complete and unrelenting jerk throughout most of the series, rarely ever apologizing for his mistakes, blaming others for him messing up, or making the situations worse. It was honestly hard to care for him, but the scene between him and Willie burying the hatchet felt like an attempt to redeem him and push him into a brighter spot. However, he and Willie are killed shortly afterwards. It strikes me as Remender attempting to make us care about Marcus when we’ve been given little reason in the past right before dropping the axe on him. In reflection, it comes off as rather cheap and cutting a character arc rather short. The same thing extends to Billy, Willie, and even Kendal to a certain extent. Give us some good development/moments and potential for further growth before killing them off quickly and cheaply. This felt a lot like wasted potential and since it was done several times over the issue, it just came across as repetitive and emotionally manipulative, even more than other series I’ve read.
Petra going bad and killing Billy makes for a good twist, but it feels like it comes out of nowhere and wasn’t built up to. There never really felt like there were any hints towards the act and the parts about her past revealed in this issue, while well-written, come across in hindsight as the writer trying to come up with some reason for what she does at the end. The plot and a lot of the story elements really strain credibility and believability at times, like the killing spree across the city and everyone getting away with it. However, the biggest example of straining believability goes to Viktor. Viktor somehow survives all of his injuries (impressive for a guy who has been running all night, had a pipe smashed against the back of his neck, has a smashed back, has been hit by a car, went through the windshield of it, has glass embedded in his skin, and is bleeding profusely), is able to climb the right tall building in a city full of tall buildings, somehow finds both Marcus and Willie, snipes Willie with an assault rifle, and jumps from one building to the next without a sweat. There’s suspension of disbelief and then there’s just cartoonish absurdity, especially when set in a more realistic environment. I understand that a lot of this may be subjective and come down to personal opinion, but for me, the bad takes away too much from the good here.
“So ah… how’s it goin’?”
Is It Good?
Deadly Class #21 succeeds at being one hell of a shocking and haunting ending, with strong artwork and writing. However, upon reflection and once the shock wears off, it loses a lot of its luster and comes across as manipulative, wasteful, and straining in its believability. I know a lot of my complaints may come down to personal opinion and that there is plenty of good here, but I find the problems of the narrative and decisions take away from the experience. However, if you’ve enjoyed the series so far, I can say you’ll definitely at least like this.