Axel-In-Charge: Navigating the "Civil War II" Landscape, Bringing DMC to Marvel
Before Rob Liefeld hired Joe Keatinge and Ross Campbell to relaunch Glory, my knowledge about the character was limited to her being some sort of Wonder Woman analog. Because I never had a desire to see Liefeld’s version of Wonder Woman, I’d always ignored the character and her series. However, it was impossible to ignore Campbell’s designs for her, even if I hadn’t been writing a blog series on comics named after and starring female superheroes.
I’m embarrassed to say I was unfamiliar with Keatinge’s work before Glory, but I liked Campbell’s Shadoweyes a lot and especially loved how buff his Glory was in the promo art. She’s feminine, but she’s body-builder feminine, with shoulders and upper arms that would make the Hulk think twice about tussling with her. Under Campbell’s pen, her ridiculously long hair (a product of her ‘90s origins) makes her look alien and purposely strange instead of just goofy and dated. It’s even cooler in the comic when she braids those Medusa-like tresses into pigtails that look like they could be used as weapons themselves. Glory is attractive, but weirdly so and her looks are at the bottom of the priority list not only for herself, but also for Keatinge, Campbell and the entire cast of the series.
What’s at the top is characterization, though it’s slow burning; sometimes maddeningly so. Not knowing anything about Glory before the relaunch with Issue 23, I’m not sure how much of her background is Keatinge, how much is Liefeld, and how much is from previous writers Jo Duffy and Alan Moore. But Keatinge takes what sounds like a typical origin for early-Image characters — Glory is the hybrid child of an Amazon and a demon; born to cement an alliance between the warring races — and gives it some serious emotional weight.
Keatinge and Campbell present Glory as a dangerously unpredictable warrior who serves her own agenda instead of the one chosen for her by her parents (who never really saw eye-to-eye on what they wanted her to accomplish anyway). Glory has noble goals and a desire to protect the people of her adopted Earth, but she’s also a victim of her demonic heritage and can be as much a danger to her allies as to the invading monsters that are trying to drag her back towards her destiny. She’s thoroughly alien both in appearance and action.
That makes her really interesting, but also a difficult character to relate to. Because of that, Keatinge’s given her a supporting cast of allies, starting with the point-of-view character Riley Barnes. A journalism student who’s writing her thesis on Glory, Riley tracks her childhood hero to Mont Saint Michel, a tiny island off the coast of France, where she meets other friends of the superhero and eventually the warrior herself. Unfortunately, her arrival coincides closely with the arrival of those alien monsters I mentioned. It’s unfortunate not only for the characters, but also for me as a reader.
All the focus on plot and action makes it difficult to get to know the characters as much as I’d like. That might be a weird thing to lament in a superhero comic, but as I read the last couple of issues I found myself getting tired of how dangerous and unrelatable the main character is; especially because I wasn’t feeling everything I thought I should be about the other characters. They’re all nice people, but I don’t even know that much about Riley other than that she’s always idolized Glory and is now starting to realize that there’s a very dark side to her hero. If every issue was going to be about reinforcing that dynamic, I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep with it.
The thing is, Keatinge is a master at plot and he and Campbell are killing it on the action sequences. Every installment where I thought I was getting kind of tired, Keatinge has introduced some twist or development that immediately made me crave the next issue. As for the battle scenes: they’re well choreographed, imaginative, and filled with extraordinary creatures from Campbell’s wonderful imagination.
I may not be completely feeling these characters yet the way I want to, but it’s obvious that Keatinge and Campbell have put a lot of thought and passion into them and are taking them someplace fascinating. I’m impatient to get there – impatient to know them better – but these guys are making it a fun, thrilling experience to wait.