Glory Volume One: The Once and Future Destroyer

by deerinthexenonarclights

I feel that the title above is somewhat inaccurate because this book isn’t really the first volume of Glory, nor does the comic itself ever try to suggest that fact. No, it’s cover plainly states that it contains issues twenty-three to twenty-eight and yet it is the first trade. This is because, like Prophet before it, Glory is a weird kind of re-make re-boot hybrid that takes an old Image-owned Rob Liefield character, keeps their old continuity but continues forward in a completely different direction. And let me warn you, this Glory is different in every sense of the word.

There is a splash page in the sixth (or twenty-eight) issue that features only one line of dialogue atop its depiction of a giant flying bat/cat using its laser vision to viscerally disembowel a humanoid hammerhead shark-like alien that is threatening to rescue Riley, our perspective protagonist and that line is “HOLY WHAT THE JESUS CHRIST”! Familiarize yourself with the phrase if you plan on picking up this book; you’re gonna need it.

I feel that the paragraph above is somewhat inaccurate because this book isn’t really as silly as that summary would suggest. The book is called Glory but the character at its core is actually known as Gloriana; the abbreviation is slang only used by those that don’t really know her. New writer Joe Keatinge has turned Liefield’s stereotypically blunt book into something eloquent and tactile; the once brute beast of a woman is now a part of a much larger web, one that still lets her punch plenty of things but never without comment or consequence. So I feel that this issue of nomenclature represents the book well metaphorically; its simple satisfying schlock to those who would skim but complex and classy in its construction to those who take the time to see it.

Time is a funny thing in Glory. To again harp on about titles the one given to this trade is more important than it might seem: for one it is a collation of those given to the two arcs it collects (Once and Future and Destroyer) but more than that it summarizes subtly the story contained within. It is a book that begins centuries in the past, takes place mostly in the present but isn’t above spending an entire issue set on a Brandon Graham-esque future sequence. It also highlights the fact that this isn’t the story of a superhero, of someone out to save the world, but instead its that of the one who would destroy it.

So for all of the superpowered ultra-violence that the book contains, and it does contain bucket-loads of the bloody stuff, Glory is a book with a genuine message and ironically enough it is one of peace and pacifism. The conflicts that artist Ross Campbell creates in the comic are chaotic, certain and creative but never feel fully cathartic; we are more appalled than appreciative of the death and – dare i say it – destruction that they depict but this is their point, they are damning the usual ‘punch away your problems’ method that people in comics usually apply. Which is not to say that it isn’t still an awesome sight to behold when an army or animal-alien thingies beset the beast of a heroine at the books core, it’s just that there is more to it than that.

So the book is one part parable on the damning nature of violence and the horror of war, one part superhero story and one part Promethea redux (which is fitting since Moore once wrote for the character, though only very briefly). Keatinge cleverly utilizes all of the characters history, those twenty-two issues that existed long ago, without requiring you to know any of it. He does this primarily by portraying some of it as actual past and perverting the rest to fit his own picture and by having those adventures be the fever dreams of a demure young journalist who, when the dreams abruptly end and enter repeats, sets out to re-discovers Glory and finds her to be utterly unlike anything that she had expected.

Glory, or Gloriana, herself is a very strange figure, figuratively and literally. She was created to be Image’s copy of Wonder Woman, she even descended from a race that called themselves ‘The Amazons’. Instead of the slim figure in a bustier that one would expect from a comic – and what the original gave readers – Campbell has designed the character here to look as a woman that strong would in reality, namely like no other female character you’ve likely seen. She is big, brutish and barren of obvious femininity; so much so that she almost lumbers in panels besides the perky young girls in her party. A bold choice and a very effective one, her physicality something that never stops seeming strange; as it shouldn’t since she is after-all both an alien and a monster.

This is perhaps the primary flaw of the book; we cannot connect in any way with the title character, she’s simply too strange, and the supports while sympathetic aren’t given enough time or flesh to carry the story; their time in the spotlight stands as small against Gloriana as they themselves do.  The concept is enough to keep you compelled during this introduction but going forward this is something that the books must and probably already plans to change. The cast is there, they just need to be given a chance to draw us in so that the next time they are stuck in the middle of a massive multi-dimensonal slaughter we will be more sympathetic.

So Glory is a very strange book but unlike its sister series Prophet it is one that brings together all of its daringly disparate elements into a cohesive story that has only now properly set-off. I would say that I’m looking forward to seeing what happens now that it has but that may well be inaccurate too since what will happen is going to be so far out of the range of my imagination that my reaction to it could be anywhere on the spectrum. What I do know for sure though is that I’m going to be there to find out and if you’ve got the stomach for it you should be too.