One of my favorite graphic novels since Sandman met it’s demise years ago has been Deadly Class, a series by the writer Rick Remender (Black Science, Low, Tokyo Ghost). The early story centers around Marcus Lopez, an orphan accused of murdering all the children in the orphanage he was living in until just before the the story proper. Based on the rumors and stories surrounding him, an assassin community decides to recruit him to their secret high school for assassins to be trained in the arts of dealing death. While most students have their legacy families of assassins they come from, Marcus is one of the “rats”, a group of misfits without a heritage to give them place at the school. And all your typical cliquish groups are largely represented as clans at the school — gangstas to redneck nazis to Latino gangs to Russian spies to the Yakuza. Even accountants and politicians have their place.
I’m not going to go much further than that other that to state the obvious — Marcus and his rats have a hard time fitting in. And, in true teenage form, they rebel at every chance they can against those clans with cred.
It takes place in the 80s, with 80s tropes and multiple references to music from the era. As you might guess, I enjoy it for the music references alone, especially because Petra, the resident goth, and Marcus, a post-punker riff quite a bit on the music scene that I grew up with.
Well, SyFy produced a season of the graphic novel and I’ve been wanting to catch it, but was reluctant to pay $27 to own it. It recently came to my attention (this morning) that one of the streaming services is showing it for free, so I watched the first three episodes tonight, expecting it to have little to do with the graphic novels other than the basic theme, and I was ready to shut it off if it got really bad and accept that I’d wasted an hour or so on it.
To my surprise, it is actually a really good take on the books. Of course, they have to cut out some of the more extreme violence, and tighten up the storyline for live action, but it stays pretty faithful to the books so far. All of the actors are well cast and the darker elements are not toned down at all (although it has been about a year since I read it, so maybe I am not recalling it well). Let’s put it this way — I found The Crow adaptation to be somewhat weak (although I did enjoy it) compared to the novel. I felt that the director for The Crow took too many liberties with the story and added unnecessary elements while removing essential story elements. So far, Deadly Class is the polar opposite. It has hit all of the important story elements and added some fun little snark not in the books as well. It’s a fairly unapologetic live action remake of the books, and I have to say: color me impressed.
Now, I know the themes aren’t for everyone. I’m a dark guy. I like my grit. I don’t know that I recommend anyone else watch it because I can see some of the darkness of the story being too much for many people — which is why I suppose they didn’t go on to season two and three and — I think there are currently nine story arcs in the series. Which is too bad, honestly, as some of the characters really don’t shine until later story arcs. I got particularly attached to Saya’s story, as well as Petra’s. Maria’s arc has some gut-tug moments as well, as you discover that she’s not the confident little murderess she pretends to be.
On the other hand, if you want to watch Henry Rollins (Black Flag, Rollins Band) play a teacher explaining the art of poisoning to some high school kids, you might want to check it out.
You can stream it with a free Peacock channel account.