Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Charis Solis, Douglas E. Sherwood, Ed Brisson, Emi Lenox, Extreme Studios, Gloria, Glory, Henry, Image, Jed Dougherty, Joe Keatinge, Joseph Bergin III, Ms Shatia Hamilton, Owen Gieni, Rile, Rob Liefield, Ross Campbell, Sloane Leong, Ulises Farinas
Written by Joe Keatinge
Illustrated by Ross Campbell
Colours by Ms Shatia Hamilton, Joseph Bergin III and Owen Gieni with Charis Solis
Letters by Douglas E. Sherwood
Written by Joe Keatinge
Art by Ross Campbell, Ulises Farinas (Chapter 9), Owen Gieni (Chapter 10), Emi Lenox (Chapter 10), Greg Hinkle (Chapter 10), Sloane Leong (Chapter 10) and Jed Dougherty (Chapter 10)
Colours by Owen Gieni and Charis Solis
Letters by Douglas E.Sherwood (Chapters 7-9) and Ed Brisson (Chapters 10-12)
Riley has dreamed of Glory since she was a little girl. The superheroine who helped turn the tide in World War 2, Glory’s massive frame matched her capacity for violence. Riley dreams Glory’s life for years and, when the dreams reset, she feels lost. Riley’s a journalist after all, and if there’s one thing journalists hate it’s an untidy story. So, with the last of her money, she sets off to find out what really happened to Glory.
A little while ago, the old Extreme Studios characters, originally created by Rob Liefield, were rebooted. The end result was fascinating as these quintessentially ‘90s characters were rebuilt for a very different decade. Three of the books really stood out, Youngblood for its re-embracing of the superhero as celebrity, Prophet for its gleefully crazy transformation into Lynchian science fiction and Glory, because of the amazingly brave choices it makes.
The first is apparent from the moment you see the present-day version of Glory. Ross Campbell’s stunning artwork rebuilds the heroine as a biological tank, a 12-foot plus musclebound figure who’s physique is accelerated and focused far beyond human levels. Campbell’s work has always been impressive on titles like Wet Moon, but here it does something impossible; make Glory feminine, alien, grotesque and beautiful all at once. It meshes with Joe Keatinge’s script to create an entirely different flavour of superhuman story. Together, the two create a story which is crammed to the rafters with intricate, often grotesque design and horrifically brutal violence. At its heart though is something incredibly simple and small and intimate; the friendships Glory has with the people she knows on Earth.
This is where Keatinge gets to have a little fun and the early issues, with Glory healing on a small French island, read a little like Chocolat with added demons. That’s built on later as Keatinge continually shows us what it’s like to be an ageless figure on a mortal world, and repositions Glory as an almost Doctor-esque figure, desperately in love with humanity but unable to truly interact with it.
As the book goes on though, Keatinge sets the heroine up as a force of nature, insanely destructive to everyone around her. Riley’s part in her life, as the book quickly reveals, is as simple as it is impossible; to stop her. Glory can’t help her nature or her training, and if she’s allowed to run unchecked she’ll kill every single thing she can find. Without ever saying it out loud, that’s clearly why she attaches herself to humans so willingly. Riley, Gloria (Glory’s former human host), various boyfriends and a list of historical friends and acquaintances (Gertrude Stein, Crime Fighter!) are all drawn into her life at least as much to anchor her as to be saved by her. The tragedy of the book is how few she does save. As the book goes on this becomes a more significant theme, Glory struggling not only to win her war but accept that there may be something beyond it. The final issue in particular is beautiful, poignant and features one of the most elegant visual tricks I’ve ever seen in a comic book. Watch out for it, it’s brilliant.
That trick embodies the title’s continual willingness to play with the expectations of its characters and audience. Twists galore hit, especially in the second volume and each one is resolved at exactly the right pace. The huge events of the title actually feel like huge events being faced by real people and as a result there’s a weight and poignancy to the final battle that’s almost completely absent from most titles like this. You never get a sense, even when the inevitable superhero team up happens, of this being a world which deals with massive cosmic events lightly. That leads to my favourite issue, chapter 10, where every character is given a moment to say their goodbyes before riding off to certain death. The parade of superb artists on display combined with the surreal image of the book’s cast doing resolutely normal, human things is sweet, funny and deeply poignant. I defy you to get through the section with Henry talking about his cameras in particular without getting teary.
That in turn leads to the final brave choice the book makes. The final issue unveils what it’s all really been about and presents one of the most clear eyed, hopeful views of heroism, mistakes and what it’s like to not fit in I’ve ever seen. It ends up not being about redemption but perseverance, pushing on and trying to change for the better especially when it’s difficult. Keatinge rolls out every last visual trick, nests the book forever inside Glory’s accepted continuity and makes everything better. Glory, to her own surprise, does the same. The warrior does the last things she ever expected to; survive.
Keatinge and co’s run is complete across these two books and it’s essential. Campbell’s design work is exemplary, Keatinge’s script is complex, nuanced and sweet and the artists, letterers and colourists involve do a great job of keeping in step with each other but also leaving their own mark on the book. The end result is a quiet classic, one of those runs that redefines a character and finds new things to say about the idea of superhumans itself. This is a book with muscles, just like Glory, but with the intelligence and restraint to back them up. A complete story and an extraordinary achievement, it’s available now.
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