SUNDAY SLUGFEST: Glory #23A comic review article by: Nick Hanover, Jason Sacks, David Fairbanks
Nick: A lot of the attention given to the resurrection of Extreme Studios has centered around the creative choices of teams for the new titles, and with good reason. Unlike the larger scale DC reboot, the new Extreme has become home to an exciting assemblage of fresh talent looking to go beyond simply revisiting old properties, aiming instead to reinvent the properties they've been handed in every conceivable way. Joe Keatinge and Ross Campbell's take on Glory is no exception; the duo have latched onto the basics of Liefeld's original concept -- Wonder Woman, except EXTREME! -- and given it a post-Moebius sheen, decking out Glory's world with a beautifully hideous mishmash of exquisite European detail and Japanese-flavored expressionism, all set to a heady brew of a plot, which just so happens to pull from Alan Moore's Promethea as often as it looks towards the original Glory and its Wonder Woman sourcing.
Jason: Dare I say it? Yeah, what the hell. Glory, Glory, hallelujah! I was left kind of breathless by this comic -- as much by what it is not, as what it is.
As Nick mentioned, Glory seems on the surface to be influenced by Wonder Woman, and that was probably its original inspiration. But as soon as you see Ross Campbell's spectacular cover it becomes obvious that this is a different kind of Amazon. Heavily muscled in the manner of a weightlifter rather than a beauty queen, Glory looks on this cover like a warrior you just don't want to fuck with -- especially when you see the vast array of colorful demons and other creatures at her feet (including a dark-haired woman with a tiara -- could it be... ahem... the other comics Amazon?).
Inside, as illustrated by Campbell and written by the always independent-minded Joe Keatinge, this book takes on a very modern, very interesting and very unique sort of groove. In a delicious moment of meta, Keatinge starts the book out with the phrase "everything is different now," and everything really is.
Everything we were used to is different now. Glory fights in World War II against the Nazis, spilling nasty German entrails all over the killing fields, but she declares that, "I'm not fighting for the sake of your country. I'm here to do what's right."
And just as Keatinge and Campbell pull the rug from under our feet in the war scene, then they do the same in civilian life. There is definitely a Promethea vibe happening as the issue moves along and we notice that young college student Riley has a striking resemblance to missing hero Glory, and that Glory looks different in Riley's dreams.
There are a lot of mysteries here, and lots to build upon...
What about you, David? Did this comic connect for you?
David: I don't really know what to say about Glory, though I think Nick's opening provides a nice springboard. Rufus Wainwright, a musician I'm a pretty big fan of, covered Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" with beauty. Except for one thing: his pronunciation of "you" felt wrong rhyming with "two" instead of "hallelujah."
Keatinge and Campbell are great at what they do, but I don't know that I would say I was impressed by Glory. Like Wainwright's "Hallelujah," it was good, but there were little things that knocked it away from greatness.
Keatinge's dialogue was weak in some panels, but I feel it was balanced out with great conversations like the one between Supreme and Glory. I'm not going to lie, though -- it was the art that drew me to the book. I've got friends who have been Wet Moon fans for years and I was excited to see Campbell on something that could get him a little more notoriety in mainstream comics (a guy's gotta eat, you know). Like Keatinge, though, I don't get the feeling Campbell is bringing his best work to the table for Glory, but that doesn't mean it's his fault.
The cover art is brilliant, but we can't expect the interiors to be as beautiful and detailed as the cover, unless the artist is given quite a bit of time (see: Frank Quitely). But the interiors vary in quality across the issue. Glory and Riley seem to be consistently drawn and drawn well, as are Glory's people, whenever they're present, but the faces for minor characters are pretty off-putting (I'm thinking specifically of the military officer in the introduction and the folks in the bar). And every once in a while, Gloria's chin will get disturbingly pronounced for a panel or two.
The truth is, though, aside from a few weak pieces of dialogue, Glory is great and wonderful. I think that Graham and Roy set the bar really high with Prophet and that most of my disappointment stems from that.
Keatinge and Campbell are producing a great comic with some minor flaws. Flaws that would probably disappear if they were given a little more time on the book.
Nick: To an extent, I agree with you there, David. The variances in Campbell's art drew me out of the story on occasion, in particular with the facial expansion issues some of the characters were going through. But at the same time, I'm drawn to that somewhat ramshackle quality: this is the antithesis of the New 52 in so many ways, from Shatia Hamilton's grimy colors to the decidedly analog feel of the art to Keatinge's devotion to depicting these superheroes as assholes with immense power.
This also builds into a question of growth. When I pick up an indie title, a large part of the appeal is the process of growth, of seeing brave new creators testing out brave new ideas and working out the kinks publicly. Modern mainstream titles by contrast can be far too clean, like peak '70s prog was to punk. Could the interior art be improved at times? Certainly. Is there something fascinating about seeing the story of a warrior goddess borne of demons and angels illustrated in a way that's at times purposefully ugly and broken? Definitely. Because of the strength of that latter idea, as well as the interest I have in the story Keatinge is crafting, I'm not only willing to sit through the growing pains, I'm actually looking forward to watching Campbell develop even more as the story does.
Jason: I get the feeling that I liked this issue more than you guys, though I liked it for many of the same reasons that you liked it.
I think what I enjoyed most was that this was a pretty classic setup but done in a really intriguing way. Glory #23 is lot like a cover song that presents a familiar song in a new light that's maybe a bit more alternative or a bit of a strange take on the song, if you know what I mean. It had some riffs that reminded me of Wonder Woman -- her World War II setting and her Amazon backstory -- but those riffs all sound a bit different when played by Keatinge and Campbell.
It's funny that all three of us brought up music when discussing this comic. In part that's because we're all obviously pretty passionate about music, but I think it also speaks a bit to the attitude and style of this book. It feels like a real indy comic -- or like a great new song recorded with analog equipment and slightly ragged guitar and drums. The analog feel is part of what makes Glory great. It's the familiar remade as something a bit different.
This is all a bit meta, so I'll say it a little more plainly: I had pretty high hopes for this comic since I know Joe Keatinge and know his attitude towards comics. But I got more involved in the book than I expected to. I got caught up in the stories of Riley and Gloria and the mystery of Glory and really do want to know what happens next. This comic was a little like the missing 53rd title of the DC 52 for me -- a reboot for which I only had moderate hopes and which turned into a new favorite.
This comic rocked, indie style.
David: After reading Glory, I was inclined to say that it was the best Wonder Woman comic on the market until I remembered just how much Azzarello and Chiang were killing it on the proper Wonder Woman comic. I feel like, when reviewing a comic, I've got to list off what my complaints are, even if they are generally little things like here.
I've got to agree with you, Nick, that it's nice seeing an artist's style. Every time I go back to read Scott Pilgrim, I'm blown away by just how much Bryan Lee O'Malley evolved over time.
I really don't know if we're going to see drastic changes with Campbell's work unless he gets faster, but frankly, I don't want his style to change much. I think the full page splash of Glory wailing on a tank, the conversation with Supreme, the interior and exterior cover art are all indicative of how skilled Campbell can be. They also seem to be a great fit for the feel of the book and it's incredibly refreshing to have an artist completely flip the appearance of Glory from her scantily clad '90s roots, especially with the New 52 taking so much fire for the portrayal of women in some of their books.
The funny thing, Jason, is that I felt like I was hating on the book more than either of you two, but at the end of the day, we all felt it deserved a 4.
I think the music comparison had to happen with comics for so many reasons, but even more so with these Extreme reboots. These are brand new creative teams tearing down these characters to concepts that they believe to be the most interesting and then building something new from that foundation. These are cover comics, in a sense that most of the mainstream books can't really hope to be (could you see DC giving Wonder Woman to Campbell to draw?).
Despite my criticisms of the book, I can't wait for Glory #24 next month. I don't expect the title to compare to Prophet, but it's still better than quite a bit of other comics out there and anybody not reading it is really missing out.
When he's not writing about the cape and spandex set, Nick Hanover is a book, film and music critic for Spectrum Culture and a staff writer for No Tofu Magazine. He also translates for "Partytime" Lukash's Panel Panopticon.
Jason Sacks has been obsessed with comics for longer than he'd like to remember. He considers himself a student of comics history and loves delving into obscure corners of this crazy artform. Jason has been writing for this site for about seven years and has also been published in a number of fan publications, including the late, lamented Amazing Heroes and The Flash Companion. He lives in north Seattle with his wife and three kids.
David Fairbanks doesn't get many things right the first time. He studied physics in college, loves science, music, comics, poetry, movies, books, and education pertaining to all of the above. He will talk your ear off about Grant Morrison and Ben Folds, has an indie bookshelf larger than his Marvel, DC and Vertigo ones combined and if he ever actually grows up, more than anything else, he wants to still be happy as an “adult,” whatever that is.