‘THE ACCLAIMED APOCALYPTIC WAR SAGA COLLECTED IN ITS ENTIRETY! SOPHIE CAMPBELL (Wet Moon, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and JOE KEATINGE (Marvel Knights: Hulk) finally collect their critically-acclaimed and brutally told saga of one warrior and her family torn apart by a millennia-old intergalactic war. This is the complete story, collected in its entirety for the very first time in a deluxe digital edition. Includes never-before-seen sketchbook material, scripts, commentary, and interviews.’
Written by: Joe Keatinge
Art by: Sophie Campbell (formerly Ross Campbell, if you’re about to say that doesn’t match the name on the cover) (pencils/inks); MS, Shatia Hamilton, Joseph Bergin III, Owen Gieni with Charles Solis (colours, over different issues), plus various guest artists in some issues.
Publisher: Image Comics
Released: June 2014
This is an older one (I know, I know, by all of a few years), but after reading it I thought it definitely deserves a spotlight for its excellent storytelling and artwork. Now, Glory was a superhero created in the 90’s by Rob Leifeld, hanging out with Avengelyne and co. After swapping publishers a couple of times as Leifeld shifted around, she had a couple of issues with Alan Moore before largely dropping out of existence. In 2012 Image decided to reboot Glory (though not her continuity), giving the series over to Keatinge and Campbell, who started it from the last issue of the previous run rather than going from a #1 again. So ‘the complete saga’ is actually only twelve issues, from #23 to #34.
Let me tell you, I was surprised when I looked back and realised how few issues made up the collection because it’s a complete story arc that felt bigger than its restricted number of issues. The entire narrative is well built, and despite never having heard of Glory before reading this, I wasn’t left confused. I did gather that I was supposed to recognise a lot of the other superheroes who cameo, but the context was pretty clear so it wasn’t essential to the story. I can’t speak for how the main character of Glorianna Demeter herself might have been changed – I know her backstory was modified a bit to be offworld rather than underworld, and her younger sister added in – but I do love how Keatinge has written her here; her backstory and desire to use her skills to be part of the human world the only way she knows how contrasted with the horrible fact that her power could destroy everything she holds dear. That’s basically the bones of the ‘saga’ arc, which follows young aspiring journalist Riley, who has a sort of psychic link with Glory (including the occasional awesome vision of the future), tracking her down and getting drawn into the bloody conflict of Glory’s homeworld as it arrives on Earth, while being constantly aware of the future that might result from Glory’s part in it. Having a third party be the reader stand-in rather than following Glory herself works excellently for this, keeping our superhero mysterious and slightly alien (since she is). Using an ‘everyman’ stand-in character might seem like a standard storytelling trope for movies, but for superhero comics the standard is just to follow the hero themselves, usually with narration for exposition. Glory isn’t exactly the hero of the story – she’s the hero for now, who could become the villain at any time, because sheer destructive power doesn’t care what gets in its way, and keeping a certain narrative distance from her absolutely helps inform the tense feeling with which this is addressed. The plot neatly entwines the raw punch-the-enemy-to-death power with examining the relationships between the characters, political and family machinations, unexpected motivations and manipulation, and slowly revealing parts of the past. There are regular flashbacks to build up our understanding of what’s happening as a reader, and even to help tie the story together; there’s a flashback montage near the start that seemed like a throwaway joke about comic character trends over the years, but turns out to be important at the end, and new light is shed on much of her actions once we find out what happened to her old lover Emilie for example. The time spent planning out the story really shows.
Even with the great writing, the comic wouldn’t be anywhere near the level it is without Campbell’s art. Since she’s probably most well known for her current work on Jem and the Holograms, you might be surprised at the goriness and intense fight scenes here, but dang does it bring the impact for a planets-spanning war fought mostly in melee, not to mention the whole ‘spent centuries training as a warrior’ thing (on a side note, I was surprised that a sweary character had all their profanity censored considering the violence. Plus there’s nudity). Colours are richly and wisely used (including some lovely watercolour work on some of the covers and extra art) despite changing colourists during the series. The various character designs are distinct, and amazing when it comes to off-world creatures and people, not to mention the beautiful settings which vary between quiet French villages and alien palaces. One of the coolest things about it though is the design of Glory herself: she is big, muscular, scarred, and hardcore. I was surprised when I saw the credit to Liefeld for creating the character, right up until I started looking into the character’s history and saw the Hawkeye Initiative fodder that was her old character designs. Campbell has created a superhero you would absolutely believe can smash an enemy into the ground with her bare fists, and the same goes for the Amazonians. You rarely see that kind of build and shape for female superhero characters despite it being so common for male ones (what’s the usual excuse? ‘They all just work out a lot. Just the men.’). It fits the story, and definitely helps draw you into it. The armour looks infinitely less like a pair of togs, her long hair is wonderfully drawn, whipping in graceful curves, and to top it all off her demonic transformations are awesome. It’s great to see gloriously lumpy women, whether muscled warriors or just comfortably human shaped, especially with the deliberate visual contrast of characters such as small and delicate Riley and standard-seeming dark horse character Gloria. Plus I totally want a giant winged guardian cat creature to ride like Glory has (you can see it as a kitten in the first panel of the sample page. It grows huge though).
Unless you can’t stand the sight of blood, even in a comic, I whole-heartedly recommend this. Intelligent and action-packed, and even with a bit of love story, it’s a plain awesome comic, from an excellent writer and artist team. This collected edition includes a stack of extra material, including an interview with Keatinge and Campbell at the end, a cover gallery, design sketches, an example issue build up from script to inked pages, and character art from various artists.
The ‘Glory: The Complete Saga’ reviewed here is my personal copy, though bought through Comixology who is our usual source of review issues.