By Dustin Cabeal
Everything about the cover for Death or Glory says “READ ME!” From the font/design of the title to the angle of the artwork and the beautiful coloring. The title, of course, is catchy. Sure, that price tag might deter a few people, but then there’s that one undeniable name at the bottom: “Remender.” Rick Remender is a comics darling. If you polled the comic reading population, you’d likely find that more people love him than hate him and it’s easy to see why. He has high concept ideas and has never worked with a bad artist.
I was drawn to this comic because of Bengal. I’ll be completely upfront and tell you that I’m not a Remender fan and could write a long article on all the reasons why, but all it would be is flamebait, that and as long as you’re enjoying his writing, who gives a fuck if I don’t enjoy his writing. Bengal on the other hand, I have followed since before his big American/Western debut. He’s grown so much, and that’s very clear in this first issue of Death or Glory, but the more he conforms his style for the West, the more the free-flowing design I fell in love with fades away. That’s not to say that his work here is anything but fantastic. Without naming books, I have seen a lot of so-so and average art lately to the point that I’m numb to it. When something as beautiful as Death or Glory comes around, it’s a slap in the face to your senses. It reminds you that every issue should be pushing the boundaries of art, just as much as it does storytelling. In the corporate world of comics art has almost become inconsequential. Something that is done to meet a deadline and begins to feel less and less like art. I’d rather see corporate comics turn into arthouse and produce all their titles with the same house style than rushed or stiff deadline driven artwork. To put it another way, Bengal puts the industry on notice.
As for the story, I’m sure that if you’ve never read another comic like this or seen countless movies with the same plot or read any crime fiction novels, that you’ll enjoy it. Fans of Remender are sure to enjoy it because it has his style and flair all over it. Unfortunately, if you don’t meet any of the above criteria, you’re looking at a basic, “stealing from the wrong person for the right reason, but oops there’s a twist!” What Remender does quite well is tap into subjects that are popular amongst real people. They’re not subjects tackled in mainstream media but instead spread from conversation to conversation a bars and gatherings. This time around, it’s the subject of living off the grid. A subject that is always a curious conversation due to how digital our lives are. Could you live off the grid and not in the sense of being homeless or a squatter, but actually enjoying life.
Once the story introduces that idea and the title character Glory, yes, that’s wordplay in the title, it then issues a conflict for that lifestyle. The man that raised Glory is dying and needs a kidney or a liver, it doesn’t matter, and you can insert whatever organ you relate to the most. They have no insurance. They have no credit, and they owe the hospital a ton of money already. Glory’s male role model is going to die unless she gets a lot of money quick. Here’s where the story instantly went south for me for two reasons. Glory dresses like a goddamn superhero for some reason, which seems ridiculous in this world and the other far more pressing reason is her ex-husband. He’s rich as fuck, owns a big house and is a crime boss. The cops work for him, and he has a lot of material possessions… it’s the opposite of how Glory lives her life, and while I’m willing to believe that most of this came about after their divorce, they seem freshly connected to one another.
Glory goes to steal from her ex, and that’s when the “stealing from the wrong person for the right reason, but oops there’s a twist” comes into play. I’m leaving out a big element of the story which seems more in line with Glory’s super suit than the rest of the story and of course the twist which if you’re paying attention, isn’t much of a twist. Remender does his best to distract you from it, but again, I’ve read/seen this story a dozen times before. I will say this if you shouldn’t look in the back of the truck… then you should already know what’s back there. And if you don’t, then hey, surprise this first issue will shock you!
Remender does his best to introduce these different elements of the world that are all going to play out in the coming arc of the story. Those elements don’t play nicely with each other, and parts of them feel out of place. Mainly one of the villains and Glory’s suit… and the fact that she probably could have sold the car she uses for her heist to pay for the fucking organ she needed, but hey she doesn’t have access to the Kelley Blue Book app, and they certainly don’t print that every year… (https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=dp_byline_sr_book_1?ie=UTF8&text=Kelley+Blue+Book&search-alias=books&field-author=Kelley+Blue+Book&sort=relevancerank).
With Remender’s work, it’s best to give it at least six issues. He’s one of the few creators I will say that about, and it’s because his style isn’t meant for single issues. He always manages to have a hook or a cliffhanger that makes the single issues worthwhile, but the overall storytelling is only revealed after six issues. This first issue is saved by Bengal’s artwork. I won’t sugarcoat that because without the dynamic action panels and the detailed cars, over the top characters and beautiful coloring, the story would be generic… unless you’re a Remender fan. Because I understand liking the way, a creator presents their stories and their flair that makes you come back for more, which is how Bengal’s artwork got me to read this first issue and likely the next five.
Death or Glory #1