Writer: Rick Remender
Artists: Lee Loughride, Wes Craig
Letters: Rus Wooton
As a story, Deadly Class has revealed itself to readers countless times. Too many poisonings, beheadings, back (and front) stabbings, and sniper shots to count. That’s to say nothing of how often Rick Remender has flirted with nihilism in other works. And yet I allowed myself to be taken in. By damnable hope, of all things.
Ever since the narrative has started taking big steps toward present day, it has focused on what might be termed a “redemptive arc” for Marcus. That’s both a simplistic and generous spin on it. He certainly hasn’t become a pacifist. Catching up with old friends involved burning a cult temple to the ground, cultists and all. Hell, he spent some amount of time establishing himself as one of the greatest assassins in the world.
But he has friends. He opened his heart and put his life on the line to save Saya, and again to find and help Maria. The most recent issues of Deadly Class have been..fun…and….sweet?
So too have they deceived.
Deadly Class #52 shows us just enough of Marcus and Maria’s precious domestic life to make hurt badly when that well-earned peace is threatened. Not by an assassin or drug lord or crime boss, but a degenerative health condition and lack of healthcare. While there have been sad and shocking moments throughout the series, I don’t know that anything has been as heart-rending as Marcus and Maria embracing, floundering, loving, screaming in the face of the inevitable.
Part of the credit for this grounded sadness has to go to Loughridge and Craig, whose art does a great job of naturally aging the characters, putting their many trials in perspective. Marcus and Maria look good but weathered. Helmut, meanwhile, looks like a middle-age man who turned down the cardio while cranking up the D&D and related snacks.
The issue features one of Marcus’ most extended monologues. As is often the case, readers can feel Remender speaking directly to them. It can be a mistake to take a character’s worldview as the author’s, but it’s one of Marcus’ most spot-on takes of the world, one rooted around the belief that life is something to be enjoyed, not survived.
In the latter pages of Deadly Class #52, Remender works out two brilliant, opposing movements: one thematic, one plot-driven. While Marcus and Maria’s health situation worsens, their private lives are enriched as they take the next step in their relationship with the help of old friends.
But not every old friend shows up. And not every friend gets old. The first four issues of the final arc of Deadly Class have proven unique, surprising table-setting. The final four issues have been sounded by the shot of a gun, the thud of a body hitting the floor. With the unseen killer giving a long look at a photograph of Marcus, Maria, and the others celebrating, it’s doubtful it will go down as the last body of the series.
Deadly Class #52
The first half of A Fond Farewell has raised impressive emotional stakes for Marcus and Maria. Now it's time for some death.