Way back in March 2012, I included a line in my review of Glory #24 that in retrospect seems to sum up this whole twelve-issue series well:
"It's obvious that Glory's emotional wounds are worse than her physical wounds, and it takes superhuman strength for her to be able to rouse herself."
Glory is all about war and all about the consequences of war. War devastates not just cities, towns and peoples' physical lives. It also destroys peoples' emotions and changes peoples' lives. War leaves deep scars on the land, on the economy, on the body and, maybe most importantly, on peoples' minds. The scars can be deep and lasting and intense and can take an extremely long time to get over.
Glory is about war.
It's about pain and loss and unexpected turns of the action. It's about the passions aroused by war and about families split by war and about the turns and betrayals and sheer unadulterated absolute destruction wrought by war.
But Glory isn't a total downer. Not at all. It's pretty glorious.
Because Glory is also about love.
It's about the love between friends, the love of deeply appreciated friends who are loyal to the end. It's about the complicated, bizarre twists and turns that can come from familial love. Occasionally it's about romantic love, and there's a little bit of sex thrown in the comic for good measure.
But it's the love of dear, dear friends and family that lies at the center of Glory that makes it really stand out. And it's love that takes center stage in a gorgeous, beautiful, elegiac final issue that perfectly sums up the complicated dichotomy of Glory and the world that she lives in. Despite her intense fury, despite her physical passion for war, her often breathtaking ability to grow massive and vicious and wreak massive vengeance against her foes, Glory transcends her life and her personal weaknesses to become both a good and great person.
In an odd way, the final issue of Glory shows the real growth of Glory as a living, caring being. When we first meet her in issue #23, Glory has been physically and emotionally broken. She can barely walk to meet Riley, a woman linked to her in dreams. And in the earliest issues of this series, Glory is forced to mentor Riley in the arts of war and help the younger woman to become a much smaller, much more innocent shadow of herself.
But as the series moves ahead, we see the true nature of Riley in writer Joe Keatinge's narrative: Riley humanizes Glory. Riley gives Glory a grounding in the human world and some context in which to fight her battles. Riley can fight, and fights to the best of her ability, but her fighting ability isn't the important part of what makes Riley a memorable character. It's Riley's intelligence and patience and passion and real humanity that helps Glory to grow.
It's fascinating how Glory grows and changes as the series goes on. Under the guidance of astounding artist Ross Campbell, we see Glory change and transform in all kinds of amazing creatures. When we first see Glory in the flesh, rising from her sickbed in Glory #23, the woman looks about eight feet tall, with her flesh torn and broken with scars virtually from head to toe — the very figure of a bedraggled heroine.
And as the series go on, we see Glory in all kinds of transformations. Often she's in battle, transformed into an even larger, even more vicious and horrific creature than we've ever seen before. That's shown with great power in the intense issue #33, the issue in which the great war happens and we see Campbell draw Glory in some of her most vicious transformations, a figure of sheer piercing dreadful wrath.
But it's a sign of the wonder of this series that the intense Glory is not the figure I'll remember from this book.
No, the Glory I'll remember is the woman from the final issue who has been thoroughly beaten down by the war and all her losses. I'll remember the warrior woman who finds the humanity inside herself that she had no idea she could resurrect. I'll remember the living woman who voluntarily pays Charon the ferryman to take her to Hell. And most of all I'll remember that Glory's Hell actually is a kind of Heaven, where her loved ones wait for her.
In the afterlife an ecstatic Riley cheers, "Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God! I missed you so much!!!" and a desolate Glory — torturing herself with shaved head, arm lost in battle and psychic scars ablaze moans, "I'm not letting you die because of me. I'm going to make this right." Once again Glory's emotional wounds are worse than her physical wounds, and it takes superhuman strength for her to be able to rouse herself.
But Glory's pain is undercut beautiful by a simple statement that carries much grace when a grinning Riley when she cheerfully states, "Death is wonderful. Let's no
t worry about the past."
In the end, none of us find true happiness by our accomplishments, by the battles we fight and win and the sometimes terrible consequences that those battles have. We find true happiness being surrounded by those who love us.
It's so appropriate that the story concludes with Glory taking on a new adventure with her sister Nanaja. In previous issues Glory and Nanaja had fought each other viciously, causing loss of a limb apiece and a more than a few pints of blood. But by the end of the story, both women had grown. They've come to appreciate each other. They've mellowed a bit. They've both found some measure of peace in their lives.
Glory is the story of an extraordinary woman who ends up finding true happiness despite all the horrors in her life. She's a hero, yes because she's amazing, but Glory is also a hero because she's learned to transcend the life that was destroying her psychically.
The first Keatinge/Campbell issue of Glory begins with the line "everything is different now." The final issue of Glory ends with the line "everything is different now." Both statements are true, but it's extraordinary how different that line seems by the end of this series.