In a market drowning in soap operas, Deadly Class has continually set the standard for American comics over the past three years.
After some significant twists and turns, that remains true as it reaches the middle chapters of its fifth collection in Deadly Class #28. This issue is stuffed with as many parallel plots as a Chris Claremont issue of X-Men, but that's something writer Rick Remender and artist Wes Craig embrace. The result is a very busy comic that ought to please fans of the series, even if there are as many misses as hits within its pages.
The benefit of telling a story with a bounty of characters, plot lines, and settings is that they do not all need to be winners. Just look at Game of Thrones or East of West. With so much happening, fans are allowed to pick and choose what they adore and let the mediocre elements slide away. As Deadly Class quickly bounces between all of its significant elements in a very, very busy issue, that lesson becomes crystalline.
What works exceptionally well is the follow up to Deadly Class #26 in a much need, but hardly anticipated reunion. It's a cathartic moment between two (or three) characters that fans of the series will appreciate because it is absolutely necessary. Given the relative violence and noise of this comic, Craig plays the opening scenes of #28 in a quiet manner and it's a wise decision. Watching individuals who have grown and been explored for so long engage with another simply as human beings is something to be relished here.
Craig's style is as cutting as ever, but his depiction of people is more humanizing than typical. Bodies and poses are less accentuated and for a moment it is possible to believe that two people are relishing a moment on the beach together, just like any other couple might. Even given a brief hallucination, the moment is small and endearing. Remender's use of musical call outs is as well utilized as it has been throughout the series. References to a couple of bands are not made to set a period, but instead establish character in a variety of ways. The first half of Deadly Class #28 is small in all of the right ways, and this is enough to make the issue stand out.
The simplicity and beauty of these moments and the continuation of Saya's story makes the elements that take place at the academy less obnoxious. Remender includes a digression into 1980s X-Men comics that will only service crossover readers from his days at Marvel. For those who are truly new to comics and using Deadly Class as a gateway, his digs at a crossover older than most of his readership will simply seem bizarre. It's unhelpful that all of the characters who remain to study are the least likable in the series. While you can defend this as an aspect of the story that is necessary, it's thematic weight within the comic is negligible.
Deadly Class #28 is an example of how a creative team can keep a dozen plates spinning. Some will slow and begun to wobble, but others will whirl at such a thrilling speed as to distract readers. There is no consistent theme or purpose to this issue as a single piece, but as one chapter it includes enough good to outweigh the bad. Craig's layouts and Jordan Boyd's colors on the beach are enough to justify the price of entry. What comes next as these plates begin to collide will be far more interesting, but for now it is beautiful enough to know the story has led us to a brief respite with characters we care about this much.