Can a series as chaotic and vertiginous as Deadly Class jump the shark? Perhaps not, or perhaps it already has—but it’s never been as campy as #40, the beginning of the ‘The Bone Machine’ arc. Spoilers from here.
Saya and Maria have been reunited by Zenzele, who actually narrates over the heart-felt proceedings. Well, it’s actually from a letter she’s writing to her mother, which serves to catch us up and reestablish her character.
Yet, no sooner has a connection been made does Master Lin and Yakuza assassins burst in. From there, we get an action scene that gives us the first hint of total camp. Zenzele has hinted at her fear of demons or being possessed. But now she goes on a murder spree where her dialogue font changes to red and gold and she shouts: “STUPID WHORE—YOU CAME LOOKING FOR A MEEK LITTLE GIRL—BUT YOU FOUND A DEMON!” Wait, so is she actually possessed? Are we actually doing this? Because if so, that demon needs to work on his dialogue.
It only gets worse from there. Helmut lights out of King’s Dominion with his roommate Tosahwi to get revenge for Petra. Remember, she was part of a cult which was revealed in the fourth arc, ‘Die for Me,’ in a chilling scene.
Having a cult in the Deadly Class world sounds reasonable. This is an over-the-top series already, so having cultists shouldn’t break the world, right? Alas, in this case, it’s unintentionally laughable. Helmut and Tosahwi waltz right into a Sacramento church and are led immediately underground to a dungeon by overly cheerful folks.
Right after descending, the church goers strip off their clothes and start up a bloody orgy, complete with ram-headed, sword-wielding priests. I sincerely hope, dear reader, you’ve read #40 so you don’t think I’m making this up. At the same time, I hope you didn’t spend money on this.
Apart from being ridiculous and rushed, this is a little too similar to Alan Moore’s Neonomicon, although that involved a Lovecraftian fish monster in a dungeon. Moore’s scene was so tense and horrific, it suffocated. I don’t even like that comic, but that scene is damn effective in its vileness. But as for Deadly Class’s take on kinky cults…it’s not even entertaining. It’s goofy. Perhaps Remender was trying to come up with a macabre metal scenario for Helmut? Regardless, it more than doesn’t work. It goes too far for too little.
I’m reminded of Roger Ebert’s wonderfully unimpressed review of The Devils, a film that also involves a holy orgy: “We are filled with righteous indignation as we bear witness to the violation of the helpless nuns; it is all the more terrible because, as Russell fearlessly reveals, all the nuns, without exception, were young and stacked.”
I get similar vibes with #40. Remender wants to shock us…but also comment on religion and its hypocrisy. Yet, in its execution, any allusions fall flat to make way for bewwwwbs and bloooood.
At the end, Helmut gets freaked out and runs away, only to be ensnared by a new villain. So if the whole point of this scenario was to introduce a new villain, why did we have to go through that absurdism? It’s like a fantastical non sequitur that Remender and Craig just wanted to exorcise from their systems. Understand, I’m not morally offended — I’m embarrassed.
For all this talk about the story, I must pivot to Wes Craig’s art. An uncanny talent, he can turn any scene into a pop-punk explosion with inventive panel layouts and eye-popping energy. Yet, despite this issue having more than one fight scene, he does little to elevate them. Although it’s quite possible the problem is that the script didn’t give him much to work with. Strangely, the best visual moments here are smaller, subtler ones. Visual pleasure comes not from gore but marveling at how he makes somebody sneaking out a door a memorable panel.