Sunday, 11 May 2014

Glory volume 1 and 2 review

Glory as written by Joe Keatinge with art by (mostly) Ross Campbell is the re-introduction of a character called Glory who is essentially a Wonder Woman rip-off originally created by Rob Liefeld during the 90s. I’ve read both volumes collecting the entire 12 issue run by Keatinge and Campbell several weeks ago and I’ve been struggling to write something about it. In the end, I think the best way I can summarize my feelings for Glory is that like the character, these issues has so much potential and it wanted to tackled some big ideas and develop and interesting story but somewhere along the way the creators appear to have lost some steam and what could have been a long and successful series stumbled past the first checkpoint and called it quits. My only expectations going in to this comic was based on the promotional art and character sketches by Campbell. Other than that, I was going into the series cold. I mention this as I think it’s important to clarify that my disappointment with the series isn’t based on expectations I have prior to reading the series. I’m disappointed because I read a very good beginning to a larger story and somewhere after the first volume’s worth of issues the story was fast forwarded to the ending of a story that didn’t fit with the beginning story I had just read. The middle is missing which means the ending felt rush and a tad too false for my taste.

The story takes place in the present day where a young woman named Riley is troubled by frequent and recurring dreams of Glory. The dreams are about Glory’s past history. Riley repeatedly revisits Glory in her dreams and she becomes obsessed with the alien war goddess. She decides to write a research paper on her and while researching and investigating Glory’s current whereabouts, she gets caught up in Glory’s war and develops a friendship with the legend herself. Keatinge doesn’t hold back. He chooses to use Glory as a place to play around with some of the most popular themes in fiction, namely love, friendship and war. As such Riley and Glory’s lives are more closely related than either one of them thought and the development of their friendship is one of the more enjoyable aspects of the book. It’s lame how their friendship wraps up at the end of this twelve issue run but that’s more of a result of the writer’s rush to the finish line than any lack of vision or skill on Keatinge’s part.

In this iteration, Glory is the daughter of two alien races and her birth resulted in the unification of both races and the end of their seemingly endless war. She was raised to be a weapon but after 500 years of training, she decided to do some good. She visits Earth and makes it her second home, fighting in dozens of wars throughout the years. Other heroes of Earth, particularly Supreme, attempt to get her wrapped into superhero politics with all it’s nonsense of teams and arch villains. She refuses, mostly due to her age and years spent avoiding such trivialities. She’s eventually called back to her home planet to fulfill her destiny and be a weapon of war and destruction. After the war she returns to Earth but in a different capacity, she shared a body with Gloria and eventually meets up with Riley.

The best part of the series is, without a doubt, the art by Ross Campbell. I love the look of Glory even though it’s over the top. Campbell’s style works really well with Glory. The ultra-muscular design is ideal for her character and I’m very surprised that he still retains a strong sense of femininity to her. I would have thought it’d be impossible to do with her large stature but he makes it work. I think part of it is that she’s not just the same body shape as the other women with the addition of being bigger. She’s taller yes, and her frame is much wider, but her proportions are oversized. By describing it like I’m doing you would likely picture something grotesque but Glory is beautiful. It’s a different kind of beautiful, a different aesthetic or idea of beauty, than say Riley, Gloria or Emilie. There’s something about how Campbell draws the female form that makes it instantly recognizable as something womanly. Perhaps it’s the look of softness they all have. Glory, despite her incredibly large muscles, can look very soft and inviting. It’s quite nice to see how well Campbell draws her body language when she’s feeling vulnerable or when she’s spending time with Emily. It’s a different side to the character. His line work instils such a sense of humanity in his characters. It’s a joy to look it.  

Glory as drawn by Rob Liefeld.
Campbell is also very good with all the gore and violence in the comic. Glory is about war and we get plenty of action and bodily injuries to satisfying even the most desensitized reader. Just like Glory’s character design, the gore is over the top but it balances well enough with the more serious story that Keatinge is trying to tell. There is a tongue-in-cheek quality to it but I get a sense that it’s not meant to be the focus of the book. Keatinge and Campbell make for a very interesting creative team since their separate contribution to the comic clash in a way that both compliments the other’s work while also supporting it by meshing well together. Many pages seem like an exercise in contradictions and the result is a strange but rather enjoyable read. The violence is gratuitous but not just for the reader. I get a sense that it’s as much for Campbell’s sake as ours.

The heavy violence also classes with the self-censorship of the comic, and this time in a negative way. It’s very weird; nudity is permitted but not swearing. Nanaja’s shits and fucks are all blacked out but we see naked breasts a handful of times throughout the second volume. It seems a bit inconsistent and it always annoys me when profanity is blacked out in comics. You’re not fooling anytime and it just screams of someone trying to have their cake and eat it to. Put it in the book or don’t. When it’s blocked out on the same page on which I can see a female characters nude chest it ruins the effect of using blacked profanity in the first place and it makes it look as though they’re trying to insert the nudity to give the book an edge it likely doesn’t have. Casual nudity in a comic isn’t a sign of maturity and neither is swearing.

The whole second volume is disappointing to me because of how rush and a bit forced everything feels. The addition of Glory’s lover, Emily, felt very forced; almost like an afterthought. Likewise the conflict with the Knight of Thule also felt rushed. There isn’t any transition from one issue to the next and things just seem to happen because the creators wanted to cram in as much plot into the issue they had left but it makes for an inconsistent narrative. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn if some of the ideas thrown into the last few issues were meant to be story arcs of their own. If the first collected volume was made up of a three-part battle between Glory’s crew and Thule aliens, surely the creators could have been planning for an arc to focus on Glory and Emily or the Knights of Thule. Other things like the arrival of a very large number of Image Comics characters feels like a big deal for just a handful of pages, just long enough for the reader to realise none of these characters other than Supreme, will actually have any meaningful interactions with the rest of the characters in the series. Likewise, the pre-battle scenes in which characters reminisce over the events that have taken place earlier in Glory, as if they happened a long time ago, also feels forced because it hasn’t been earned. The reader only spent twelve issues with these characters. It feels particularly odd when reading the story in collected form like I did because all twelve issues can easily be read in a single afternoon. We don’t really know enough about these characters and what they’ve done to truly appreciate the importance of that kind of scene the creators try to pull off.

In the end, Glory is more of an interesting comic than a good one. The art by Ross Campbell is great and the series just doesn’t work when other artists stepped in for about half an issue’s worth of pages in the second volume. The writing is also good but the odd shift in pacing and story beginning with the second volume also affected the quality of the comic. The story is noticeably rushed and so is the art (other artists had to contribute pages to the comic). Still, there is also to enjoy in Glory but the story never goes as far as I felt it was intended to go. It’s very unfortunate because there were some really good comics to be found in these issues. I can’t comment on whether or not Keatinge and Campbell did a good job retooling the original series but these twelve issues are certainly interesting.

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