Artist Wes Craig has spent the last two and half years choreographing kids desperately attempting to escape poverty, isolation and toxic relationships in the pages of Deadly Class. Written by Rick Remender and published by Image Comics, the shadow-drenched saga revolves around a school of trained assassins and the fissures that develop within as race, sex and drugs collide in a brutal ecosystem that uncomfortably mirrors the socio-political strata outside its panels. The comic was also optioned by Sony Pictures TV for the small screen last July, with the Russo Brothers (directors of Captain America: Civil War, the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War) and Remender at the creative helm.
Indie electro-pop duo Phantogram also penned a masterwork devoted to escape with Three, an insidious collage of teflon beats, vintage samples and intoxicating harmonies released last month. Vocalist Sarah Barthel assumes the role of an alpha predator throughout the LP, putting past liaisons “out of their misery” and promising to “kill you all.” Single “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore” serves as a beautiful climax, the song’s protagonist ascending past a drug-fueled malaise at the cost of herself.
That thematic overlap made a collaboration for Paste’s latest Songs Illustrated especially delicious. (Listen to the lyrics “Stare with me into the abyss / Do you feel like letting go? I wonder how far down it is” and read Petra’s scene-stealing turn in Deadly Class #22. Tell us we’re wrong.) Craig transforms the song and its lyrics into a gothic passion play, cast in moody neon reds and grays.
Phantogram is currently on tour and Deadly Class is released monthly by Image Comics (with a gorgeous hardcover that collects the first 16 issues). Craig also recently released a second collection of his genre-spanning online work in Blackhand Comics Vol. 02.
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Deafheaven’s “Gifts for the Earth” by Becky Cloonan
Josh Ritter’s “Henrietta, Indiana” by S.M. Vidaurri
Bear in Heaven’s “Demon” by Tula Lotay
Saintseneca’s “Bad Ideas” by Julian Dassai
The Good Life’s “How Small We Are” by Noah Van Sciver
Neko Case’s “Wild Creatures” by Emily Carroll