At first glance, you might be confused by Syfy's new action series. Have the Warblers graduated from a cappella to aca-murder? Have those naughty kids from Elite taken their twisted sex games to the next level? Nope, it's just Deadly Class, based on the comic series of the same name. Though those blazers with the red piping may bring to mind the innocent singers of Glee, Blaine Anderson wouldn't last one day at King's Dominion Atelier of the Deadly Arts. Heck, he wouldn't last one hour.
Combining the "students-at-a-secret-school" premise of Harry Potter and The Magicians with the "outcasts-finding-their-own-power" theme of Runaways, the "kids-killing-kids" spectacle of Battle Royale, and the "you-win-or-you-die" ethos of Game Of Thrones, Deadly Class is a unique mashup of your favorite genre elements, all delivered in one ultra-violent package. Created by Rick Remender (Uncanny X-Force) and published by Image Comics (The Walking Dead), the graphic novel made its debut five years ago, in January 2014. The series is now 36 issues and seven volumes in, with the eighth volume due out in April.
In both the show and the comics, Deadly Class takes place in an alternate reality version of 1987 San Francisco and tells the story of Marcus, an orphan who blames Ronald Reagan for the death of his parents and plots the President's assassination. He soon finds himself recruited into King's Dominion, a secret high school where the world's top crime lords, assassins, and terrorists send their children to learn about violence, poisoning, dismemberment, murder, and more. Taken under the wing of Master Lin and sponsored by ruthless Yakuza heiress Saya, Marcus will learn to find love, danger, and maybe even himself while enrolled in this deadly class.
To hear the cast and crew tell it, the TV adaptation should have plenty to offer to both those familiar with the graphic novel and those brand new to the saga. "Honestly, for me, it's all the nightmarish experiences I had in school sort of magnified, personified, and heightened into this world," Remender, who also serves as showrunner, told Vox. Anyone who's been to high school should be able to identify with the show's portrayal of cliques, angst, and the feeling that every single action and decision has life-or-death stakes.
For all its heightened aspects, Deadly Class remains a story about discovering your tribe and finding strength in belonging to something larger than yourself — a sentiment viewers will readily recognize from other stories about students at secret schools. "There is a strange wish-fulfillment aspect to it, and it wasn't something that I ever imagined," Remender told Vox. "In my mind, I didn't see [the similarity between Deadly Class and Harry Potter], but the fans of the books, you know, that does seem to be the case."
For Harry Potter fans seeking a new series to sink into but hesitant about the graphic novel's extreme violence, the cast also promises that the show's use of it isn't gratuitous. "In this show, we tell stories about the cost of violence," Luke Tennie, who plays Marcus' best friend Willie, told GameSpot. "We are not glorified. It's not casual. If there is a loss of life on our show, we see everything about the price. We don't spend time on blood and gore, and we don't glorify the violence." According to GameSpot, Remender also issued an edict against the portrayal of guns in school, tied to the fact that Master Lin (played on the show by Doctor Strange's Benedict Wong) views firearms as "a tool of the weak." All other violence, however, remains fair game in the halls of King's Dominion.
The episodic structure should allow the breakneck pace of the graphic novel room to breathe, giving readers a more in-depth examination of their favorite characters and giving new fans a chance to catch up on the unfamiliar story. "Because this is a TV medium, we're going to have a lot of time to unpack these characters, a lot of time to unpack these stories, these relationships," Tennie said in an interview with ComicBook.com. "[Remender] knows full well that it's a daunting task, but what's cool is they've figured out ways to space out these characters' stories without filler, so it's not senseless. It's just a deep, deep examination of who they are, why they are the way they are, why they might choose the choices, instead of just what they choose. We're seeing the intention, the purpose, the reason."
The Syfy show also has one other thing to offer readers of the graphic novel: unexpected twists on the source material. "There are surprise deaths and then there are surprise survivals," Remender promised to Vox. So whether you're new to school or already an A-list student, there are plenty of reasons to enroll in Deadly Class when it premieres on Jan. 16.