A joy of being a bookstore employee is that you never know what you might find. Usually I find some gem when they find their way to the cart next to my desk that unfortunately means we were unable to sell it and it is being returned to the publisher.
Deadly Class, Volume 1: Regan Youth was not one of those gems.
There is no question why Rick Remender’s graphic novel was being returned. The cover was the draw for me so that was not my clue. I was assuming this would be a more traditional and modern comic/graphic novel; just the thing I was hoping for. I did not want something that was more novel and less graphic novel. No, the story itself left no question to why this book was not selling. The flow of the story was off. Flashbacks and flash-forwards on the same page; missing pieces of information; information given before key pieces to explain what was going on; characters that looked and sounded exactly alike (and there are diverse characters: Willie a black gang banger, Maria a lovely Latina teen, Marcus of Nicaraguan heritage but almost looks like some redneck that belongs in the Dixie Mob, the Japanese gang teens). Due to the 1987 setting, you do not have “today teen” (no cell phones, email, etc.). You also do not have a believable villain: Marcus wants to kill President Regan. The extreme ridiculousness that a 16-year-old could be a killer, let alone of the president of the United States is beyond absurd. Yet, the thing is, you believe Marcus could kill (he shows that when he kills a homeless friend of his) but how is he going to get near the President even if he is taught at the premier school for assassins? The logic is not there, therefore making you wonder how sane is Marcus?
None of the characters are likable. I had assumed the adults were going to be jerks but figured one teen might be likable or at least you could empathize with. They are all stereotypes: live fast and leave a beautiful corpse. But then again, they are not even capable of that thought. They just do as if they were some sick kids’ puppet and he is making dance. I was hoping that the school rules of no unsanctioned killings, no drugs or sex were going to be followed. I mean, I knew that was naïve of me, but a girl can hope, right? All rules are broken. And not even uniquely. Yes! Let’s give Marcus a hand job (and of course more)! I’m the Acid King and will eat the entire page of acid paper! Let’s kill the douche bag dad! (Even if Billy hadn’t told us his dad was a douche, we would have realized this by his fat gut hanging out of his boxers and hairy body. Typical douche wear and look).
I was right about it being in a stereotypical comic art and format. Wes Craig made illustrations that scream old school classic art. Details everyplace or none. Too crowded or not crowded enough. Things blending together for one big hodgepodge. The painting of the violence (sliced throats, stabbings, beaten over the head, attempted beheading) is gratuitous. The more the merrier. Nothing about this graphic novel was pretty, easy or a draw. I was interested in David Lapham’s introduction; it made me want to read the book, but now I forget why. I honestly am unsure why I kept reading after the first WTH? moment. I guess like any other wreck, you just cannot look away. The one thing I took away from this is that Deadly Class is not for beginners to the genre.