It’s rare to have a series that has worked its way into 30+ issues and not only maintained quality, but actively works to get better.
I have a lot of things to say about a whole plethora of topics, especially when it comes to comics. Deadly Class, though, has sometimes evaded my ability to continually say good things about it. It’s not that there aren’t enough praises I can heap into a review for each issue, but if you go at that too long it can start to get repetitive. I’ve stated my love for this series before. It’s a very special series that is close to my heart in a lot of ways. The fifth and sixth volumes were some of the best in the series, but Deadly Class tends to stick to a formula of one or two arcs: following the kids at or outside of the school’s walls and then an arc that just absolutely blows everything up.
The latter arcs are sometimes harder to read in single issue format due to the excessive nature of the violence and the weaving of the narrative in between that. They’ve never been my favorite parts of the series, as I’m a sucker for some good old fashioned school based drama, but with a series like this it becomes a necessity to keep it from feeling stagnant. This new arc falls into the “blowing everything up” category, but it’s definitely one of the better ones of the series. This issue takes no prisoners (or pauses) as it picks up exactly where the last one left off and continues the bloodbath in Mexico.
My favorite part of this issue was that we finally discovered Zenzele’s full backstory. We find out that Z’s warlord father sold her into sex trafficking to keep his good standing with the trafficker, and she proceeded to go full berserk on her parents. She thinks that she has the devil inside her, which we’ve been aware of for a while now, but she was eventually sent to King’s Dominon to become the trafficker’s perfect body guard.
What made the painful viscerality of her “origin story” so much more impactful, in a world where everyone has tragic backstories and dead parents, was the art style shift from the usual heavy inks and pencils to a painted watercolor style. I thought I had said everything that could be said about Wes Craig’s genius as an artist, but the use of the often hazy and out of focus nature of watercolor to illustrate a flashback was just another feather in my Wes Craig hype-man cap. Zenzele’s backstory was perfectly paralleled against the beginning of the issue where Saya is taken prisoner by her brother, and her mother killed by him.
In a series where everyone can be hated for their lack of morals and immature behavior, Brandy has always been, at least for me, the series’ most vile character. So to see Zenzele, who has suffered Brandy’s racism and bullying for far too long, decide to let her be killed by the Yakuza’s men, was a jump-out-of-my-seat-cheering moment. The rest of the issue had its moments, but I’ve never cared about Petra and her mopey guilt for killing Billy during finals. Not that guilt makes a character unlikeable, but I thought this was over like two volumes ago, and Saya’s guilt over finals is so much more raw and realistic when compared to Petra’s.
Something Remender has improved on since the series began is Marcus’ inner monologue, and reading it in this issue and thinking back to how “waxing poetic” and pretentious it was at the beginning was a testament to how this series just gets better the longer it runs. It’s rare to have a series that has worked its way into 30+ issues and not only maintained quality, but actively works to get better. While this issue wasn’t a perfect ten, it was mostly due to its place in the arc and the necessary things that had to happen in it to propel the remaining four issues of the arc forward.