Who cares? Not the characters of Image’s DEADLY CLASS. From writer Rick Remender, artist Wes Craig, and colorist Lee Loughridge, DEADLY CLASS is a comic that practically showers the reader in apathy. From the reactions of characters to the mood of the comic created by the art, this lack of caring is present throughout DEADLY CLASS. Remender, Craig, and Loughridge use apathy to remind readers about the things they care about, and why they care about them.

Where to Start?

Let’s start at the beginning. DEADLY CLASS is the story of a street kid, Marcus, who is invited to join Kings Dominion School of the Deadly Arts. This school is basically a training ground for assassins. The main plot of the story is what goes on once he is in the school. While most of the events revolve around the school, that does not mean that they occur exclusively within the school itself.

The school, for the most part, finds itself divided up into cliques. These cliques tend to be based on either what your ethnicity is or what you are affiliated with, like a cartel or the yakuza. This categorization of the cliques does exclude a group of outliers. These outliers primarily made up of kids that are punk in both behavior and appearance, provide a sort of sanctuary or home for Marcus within the school.

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As the student demographic is made up of teenagers, a lot of rule breaking occurs. Everything from drugs to unsanctioned killing counts as fair game for the story of DEADLY CLASS. Naturally, the students don’t care about the repercussions of breaking these rules, nor do they care about wrecking their bodies in the process. This general teenage apathy pales in comparison to the way the characters react to death and the way the story becomes all the more interesting for it.

Image courtesy of Image Comics

Apathetic Destruction in DEADLY CLASS

Our main character, Marcus, is your typical angsty teenager, except he has a lot of good reasons for his angst. For starters, his parents died in front of him. I’d say that gives him a valid reason for his teenage angst. This justified emotion, however, has also given him a somewhat apathetic tendency. The apathy should make him too stereotypical to find interesting, but his apathetic portrayal in DEADLY CLASS actually makes him more interesting. This makes the reader want to know why he cares, or rather, why he doesn’t. While he clearly cares about the things he’s angsty over, there are also significant things he does not seem to care about at all, such as killing.

In the first volume of DEADLY CLASS, Marcus has been assigned a partner and the task of finding and killing a vagrant deemed as evil. He doesn’t exactly do as instructed. At first, Marcus has a plan for him and his partner to kill the vagrant, a homeless veteran of the Vietnam war who had committed a number of war crimes. Naturally, this made him a perfect target. The vagrant is located with the help of another homeless man. But when Marcus’ partner fails to finish the job and shoot the war criminal, the two are left with nothing to show for their efforts. So, Marcus takes matters into his own hands. He beats the homeless man to death with a pipe, the very same man who had helped them find the war criminal.

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He does this so suddenly and with such determination that his indifference towards the act and the man makes itself very clear. Marcus kills the man mercilessly and, with a blank look, says to his partner, “We got nowhere else to go”. His readiness to kill this man and his simple justification of the act shows a clear apathetic outlook towards the events that had just transpired. How can such an action so indicative of rage create such an apathetic reaction? As usual, we are left wanting to understand and read more.

Who Cares About Death?

Marcus isn’t the only one who seems to not be affected by or care about death. Master Lin, the head of the school, shows a clear lack of caring regard when Marcus brutally murdered an innocent vagabond in the first volume of the series. That is to say, he didn’t care that Marcus mercilessly killed an innocent man. What Master Lin seemed to concern himself with was the fact that Marcus had disobeyed his rules. This is what makes him such a disturbingly interesting character.

To further prove what he actually cares about, the language Master Lin uses to severely scold Marcus shows he did not care about the homeless man at all. Specifically, he refers to the man as an “undeserving” candidate, as opposed to innocent man or undeserving of death. Yes, his use of undeserving refers to the assignment, not the death. Furthermore, he goes on to describe only how Marcus failed the assignment. Master Lin fails to mention how Marcus did something totally and morally wrong. Such an oversight is so disturbing that we can’t seem to look away. In fact, it makes us continue reading.

Image courtesy of Image Comics

Interestingly enough, one of the characters, Saya, has a very “too cool to care” attitude, yet, in the very beginning of the first volume, she struggles with killing. In the grand spectacle of helping Marcus escape the police and enter the school, Saya kills an officer with her sword and she struggles to justify it. She stutters out that the cop was going to kill Marcus. We see a look of shock painted across her face. Later on in the comic, she resumes her cool and uncaring attitude, which may very well be a façade. Her appearance of apathy, while perhaps forced, does still represent a state of uncaring that proves itself an alluring feature of the comic.

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Ultimately Uncaring Art

The art of DEADLY CLASS also reflects apathy. This lies mainly in Lee Loughridge’s coloring of the comic. The coloring in DEADLY CLASS has a rather muted quality. Very rarely do we see vibrancy employed. Saya’s skin tone is, in fact, so muted that her skin appears paper white. Even in the sequence of the grateful dead concert, the colors presented muted tones. Where the attendees would have been wearing tie-dyed shirts and other staples of the hippie lifestyle, we see a rather faded color palette.

I can only recall few points where the colors were not extremely muted. For example, there is a sequence where Marcus starts tripping on acid. This sequence features bright reds and blues as Marcus hallucinates. An interesting aspect of this limited appearance of bright coloring is how it reflects on Marcus. He doesn’t seem to care about his destruction or anything, yet while high and hallucinating everything becomes bright and vibrant. It seems almost as if, for those moments, he loses his apathy. The rest of DEADLY CLASS consisted of muted tones.

Image courtesy of Image Comics

This color palette conveyed a rather dismal and apathetic tone. If care is absent in viewing things, why would colors be bright and meaningful? The lack of bright colors in the comic, while also reflecting a lack of meaning, reflect complete apathy. The limited appearances of bright color happen at points meaningful to Marcus’s life, like Saya’s first appearance. The majority of the comic is in muted tones, so the majority of what Marcus sees does not matter to him. Even when we see bright colors, rarely is an entire subject vibrantly colored. This means that even when something is important, the muted tones prove that Marcus does not even fully care.

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Why Bother with Anything?

The level of apathy presented in DEADLY CLASS is evident in the entire comic. Marcus and Master Lin epitomize apathy within their characters. Marcus is doesn’t seem to care who he effects with his destruction. Master Lin seems to be uncaring about death in general, unless it is pertinent to the school.

The coloring has an apathetic quality, with muted tones reflecting how little the characters care about murder. This comic reminds the reader what they care about and why they should care about it. This, in addition to shocking us so much that reading further, is not a want but a need.

Ultimately, DEADLY CLASS is a tale of apathy so shocking and interesting that just about anyone should read it.

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