Usually when I write reviews I tend to pick a specific aspect of a comic book, centering my miniscule text piece around it. Such a method tends to make things easier because it provides me with a starting point as well as gives my review an angle. I can't really do that with Glory #23 though because the book doesn't really rely on one certain standout element. Instead, it's a comic book that's solid all the way through, where each element blends together for one, complete experience. And that's not a bad thing. Quite the opposite, honestly. Instead, Glory #23 accomplishes what more super-hero comics should--telling a story with enough sophistication and class that it never talks down to its audience, yet neither does it stake out a high ground, acting overly important. Glory by Joe Keatinge and Ross Campbell understands it's place in the greater pop culture landscape, and it owns every square inch of that territory.
I think what Campbell does here in terms of illustrating female characters is quite unique in the larger idea of Comics today. It was something Tim Callahan pointed out to me before I read the book, and after setting it down I couldn't help but agree. I mean, maybe this is ridiculous to cite as game changing, but Campbell doesn't even sink as low as to draw cleavage in this lady-led super-hero title. Blasphemy! At least, that's what you would think after just glancing at any other female super-hero title on the market.
Campbell characterizes the cast in other visual ways rather than relying on the cheap shortcuts of female anatomy. Glory looks like a damn warrior, bulked out with a variety of muscle tone, and Riley, the other half of the issue's parallel narrative, stands out more for her round face and cute haircut than anything else. Reasons could vary, but I want to think these visual expressions exist to suggest the true nature of what Keatinge and Campbell see as well-rounded characters. They want Glory to be recognized for her strength and Riley for her innocence, and Campbell keeps the character designs thoughtful enough so that neither character depends on a visual gimmick.
A case could even be made that the visual characterization speaks for Comics overall, arguing that beyond Comics go-to surface aesthetic something a bit more tasteful breathes. This version of Glory won't sell simply off a little T&A (a definite change from this series' original incarnation), and by being that type of comic it automatically sets an example for other books. Glory says silly, fun ideas can exist in tasteful, hardy forms.
But remember, Glory isn't pretentious nor high off itself. At the end of the day, Keatinge and Campbell know they're furthering a one-time Rob Liefeld plot, and I find that completely OK. Punches are still thrown, Nazis still explode and wars are still waged in this comic. It's not that suddenly Glory wears a suit and discusses the moral implication of prostitution with her friends. Nah, man. She's still a super-hero, and this comic still has a mystery to solve.
Keatinge does a nice job of wrapping these story elements into a smart, warm script, though, and what I found most delightful was his control of exposition and info-feeding aimed at the reader. As we know, Keatinge has decided to keep the previous 22 issues of Glory in play, but you wouldn't feel that pinch reading this new issue. He delicately places all of that information across the issue so that it's there for you to digest yet never are you force fed word balloon upon word balloon of detail. You can tell that even though this is one of Keatinge's first major works as a writer he already understands his craft.
Really, man, there isn't much else I can say. Glory #23 just stands as a nicely constructed, well-thought comic I feel more could look to as example. I'm honestly enthusiastic about reading this each month because I feel confident Glory will supply me with the pure escapism and craft I crave from more of my pull list.
Who'd a thunk an old Rob Liefeld property would come along and be the shining beacon of comic book craft? Not the Internet, that's for sure.
TL;DR: Glory #23 tells its story with enough sophistication and class that it never talks down to its audience, yet neither does it stake out a high ground, acting overly important.