Image Comic Reviews: Deadly Class #28, Kill or Be Killed #9, Youngblood #1, and more…

Deadly Class #28

Writer: Rick Remender

Artist: Wesley Craig

When it comes to the art of making a great comic it is easy to overlook the importance of each piece of the puzzle. Yes comic fans are well aware of their favorite artists and writers but the inkers, letters, and colorers tend to be overlooked. However, their work can be just as important to making the style of a comic work. Look no further than Deadly Class that long has had a style that has immediately clicked. It is liked finely choreographed MoTown group where everything from the shoe laces of their immaculately polished loafers to their silky smooth vocals fit perfectly in tandem.

Every name associated with this book from Rick Remender to Wes Craig to colorist Jordan Boyd to letter Rus Wooton have morphed into a finely tuned machine where everyone is doing some of the best work of their career. Being twenty-eight issues in for a book you would except some sort of lull or dip in quality, but this book is just getting better. Not that this issue is without its vault. I adored the brave new direction Remender was taking  a few issues ago, but the events in the past few issues shows he is taking a disappointing step back from that decision.

This is a take your breath issue where we get caught up with the new status quo along with getting some major answers to the key question readers have been asking–like how exactly is Marcus back in the fold again? Personalty my feelings towards that answer are mixed. It makes sense on a character standpoint, but it comes off as more comic booky then this series has been so far. Most of that disappointment steams from how much more I have enjoyed this new class of characters that has recently been introduced. My hope is they do not get forgotten with Marcus newfound return.

To be fair if this issue is any indication Remender should have no trouble balancing this growing list of characters. Take a character like Quan who could have easily been forgotten as he mostly served his purpose. Instead he is faced with this fascinating dilemma that better explains his actions. As if often the case with this series someone’s actions are not as simple as they first seem. With Saya thought dead by most the tension in the school is raised to an entirely new level. As her friends and Master Lin seek answers the rest of the school is fighting for dominance.

With that said the opening of this issue should put a smile on your face. Willie and Marcus jamming no the beach is so out place for a book that rarely sees the sunlight. It was great seeing these pubescent assassins be actual teenagers in a more typical 80’s fashion, and a side note I am on Willie’s side. I never understood the love for The Cure either.

East of West #33

Writer: Jonathan Hickman

Artist: Nick Dragotta

There is this phenomenon known as the ‘Runners High’ that occurs in long distance running, where your body basically rewards you for the physical demands and punishment you are putting it through.  It is this moment of catharsis you reach through lasting endurance and sheer force of will. Although I have never ran a marathon I have read a number of Jonathan Hickman series and I can assume the experience is quite similar. Thirty-three issues into East of West and now many of the plot threads that have been progressively building have finally received some supremely satisfying payoffs.

Now it is not that the journey has been without its own set of rewards, and I highly doubt we are near the finish line. Still this issue is filled with some major deaths that will have major ramifications for the series to come. In it The White Tower is under siege as the rebel forces have begun their all-out assault. By the end of this night it is clear the Union will be ending in one way or another. Who will be left standing is the major question.

For a series that centers on the coming of the apocalypse and the four horsemen there have not been a lot of deaths of  major characters. When one does occur it is a major event. Hickman makes it count for sure allowing this issue to majorly push the story forward, while saving time for some key character moments. One the barriers for major character moments to work is the density if the narrative. When characters make some major choices it takes a moment to remember the background that lead to that choice. Those who complain about too many characters in Game of Thrones clearly have never read this comic.

Overall that is a small price to pay for such an in-depth epic that is East of West. Nick Dragotta continues his career work on this series. Here he provides a visual scope to the massive chaos occurring in the riots, while keying on some key acting moments like the final panel that is full packed with poignant emotion. It keys into a well-executed bookend that fully enunciates the power of this issue.


Curse Words #5

Writer: Charles Soule

Artist: Ryan Browne

With issue five of Curse Words we get the finale of the first arc that includes plenty of insane wizard magic and a surprising plot reveal that will surely be a big part of the next volume. On a pure entertainment level Charles Soule has delivered. When your book includes a sentient Eiffel Tower boxing a magical wizard from another dimension how could you not enjoy this issue? Where Curse Words could look to improve is on the character end of the spectrum.

In this issue Ruby Stitch and Wizord finally have their showdown that has been building since the first issue. I do wonder if it came an issue or two too soon. We are still finding out a lot about these two characters and if it as held back further it could have made their first confrontation either stronger and better legitimize some of the choices Ruby Stitch makes.

Overall as a first volume, Soule and Ryan Browne has something potentially special on their hands. I do worry we will end up with an episodic narrative where we just get this continuous array of different evil wizards for Wizord to do battle with. Even so, it seems the key to making this work is the idea of trying to find magic in a more realistic world. Although this series may not be in the top echelon of what Image is currently producing it does have a lot of potential to be something great.


Youngblood #1

Writer: Chad Bowers, Rob Liefeld

Artist: Jim Towe, Rob Liefeld

Currently, 90’s nostalgia is higher than it has even been before. We have shows like X-Files, Twin Peaks, and Rosanne all getting new seasons, and not to mention the fact Beauty and the Beast and Jurassic World are two of the biggest box office hits in the last few years. With that and Image hitting its 25 year anniversary I understand the urge for both Image and creator Rob Liefield to attempt to bring back Youngblood once again, however this maybe one nostalgia step too far.

Part of the problem is the fact that Youngblood was an imitation of a very specific style and tone that was popular at one time. It was before Image formed its own identity so instead borrowed much of it from Marvel and DC. So you are attempting to get excitement for a property that has long served its purpose. To be fair if the product is good maybe it can form a new indemnity for a new generation.

Well based on the execution so far that will most likely not be the case. For one this is not very welcoming to new readers. If you have never read a Youngblood comic previously some of the major story elements will have little to zero impact. Due to a severe lack of characterization, there is little reason to get invested in this story, and the major crux of the plot so far reeks of a desperate attempt to feel relevant.

In this issue, we get caught up with a lot of the former characters of Youngblood and what the current world is now like. Now the world has a specific superhero app that is a combination of Yelp and Uber for superhero assistance. It’s idea that has been covered before and much better in something like Nick Spencer’s Ant-Man run. For this relaunch to work it will need to either come up with better ideas or make this feel less like a gimmick.

If you are a long time Youngblood fan there may be some elements to enjoy. There are some rather major character developments that are surprising including an unexpected person taking up the role of the President of the United States. For anyone outside of that group, I do not see any reason to pick up this book. There are better superhero titles, and if you really want to see what Youngblood has to offer you are better off catching up with the original series. It is clear there is a lot of admiration poured into this book, but admiration for the past does not always equal quality.

Black Science #30

Writer: Rick Remender

Artist: Matteo Scalera

At this time I am finally confident in making the bold that statement that the best Rick Remender book currently out is the last one I read. Since currently, that is Black Science it gets the reward.  What aids that theory is the quality of this issue. Remender and Matteo Scalera are unhinged in the best of ways as they off characters in ways that are both hilarious and disturbing. Some may argue having a gigantic purple fluffy creature with a potty mouth kill a number of key characters is a little juvenile.  I would not argue against that point except to say that sometimes juvenile is the right choice.

With the clock ticking to the end of the world the action here is non-stop. If anything slightly tapping the breaks could have made this even better. There were some major developments, like a massive amount of surprise characters suddenly showing up, that were breezed by with little impact. Obviously, that will be dealt with in the next issues but it was odd to see something so major be forgotten about so quickly. This last arc also demonstrated just how massive this cast of characters has become. After the last arc that had a more limited cast you can forget just how many pieces this puzzle has carved.

Due to its dimensional hopping concept it is clear the only thing limiting this series is the imagination of Remender and Matteo and Scalera. They have built such a robust world(s) that live by their own rules. Over the last few issues they have been able to give both their take on the general superhero genre while giving us action typically reserved for disaster films. You have hard science fiction melded with the magic of fantasy and somehow it all works.

Kill or Be Killed #9

Writer: Ed Brubaker

Artist: Sean Phillips

The use of first person narration is often looked down upon by people. Some say it is a lazy way to provide information or exposition about a story. It is typically more accepted in the crime genre because it is an expected trope of that style of filmmaking and story telling. Ed Brubaker’s use of it in Kill or Be Killed is quickly becoming one of my personal favorites. There is a self-awareness that allows him to speak directly to the reader without it taking you out of the book. He will bring you in by asking the question you were just about to ask to make it feel like he is speaking directly to you. There are a lot of elements that make Kill or Be Killed one of my favorite current series and that is one of the biggest.

Now nine issue in the stakes are getting higher and higher. Previously much of the drama came from Dylan attempting to find the right person to kill and dealing with the emotional fallout from those action. Now that fallout has become more physical as the Russians are beginning to track him down without his knowledge. What he assumes is his normal meet and greet with his friendly neighborhood drug dealers turns into a deadly shootout.

This series tends to run by Murphy’s Law of whatever can go wrong will go wrong. One of my personal favorites this issue was the challenge of getting to a hospital during an extremely tense situation. What is typically a quick cutaway is actually discussed at length, and will have major ramifications for this future story.

In the letter section of this issue Brubaker brings up his enjoyment of the Cohen brothers as well as the TV series Fargo. I am not sure if that is the reason this feels like a Cohen brother’s movie to me, but if they were ever to do a comic I swear it would be something similar to this. Both have the ability to use humor within tense situations without it taking away from the excitement. Dylan is a normal person placed in an extraordinary situation and it is treated as such. In that there is a lot of natural comedy. If you are a fan of the Cohens or a movie like Blue Ruin you will enjoy this series.

Sean Phillips is doing some career work on this book. I thought The Fade Out was going to be my favorite collaboration between him and Brubaker but this is giving it a run for its money. His facial acting is suburb and key in nailing the emotions of this book. He can give someone so much character just in the way he dictates their expressions. In this issue we have what is probably the most extended action sequence of the series thus far. He sets the stage to give the reader the necessary understanding of location and space.  It’s quick and to the point making its impact linger.

Kill or Be Killed has shown it is a series that can change on a dime. In issue nine we have more of the exciting action element of the book that we have not seen since the opening pages of the first issue. With next issue being the last of this current arc there is a lot to wrap up in one book.  Based on everything so far I am sure this team has something special planned.


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Dan Clark

A fan of all things comics, movies, books, and whatever else I can find that pass the time. Twitter: @DXO_Dan Instagram: Comic_concierge

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