Death or Glory‘s plot has a lot of things that I really like. Critique on big pharma? Check! Stories that take place in a matter of days/weeks? Check! Heists? Big ass check! These are really specific plot/story conventions that I’ve always enjoyed, so to see them all in one book was kind of magical. The basic premise is that the titular Glory’s father figure is dying of liver cancer, and because he lived off the grid, she can’t get him the medicine he needs. She also has an absolute douche of an ex-husband who’s a bit of a drug lord, so she does what any sane person would do and decides to steal some money he’s having transferred by dirty cops. But there’s something more sinister afoot, as she finds that he’s dealing something much more dangerous than drugs.
This comic sort of reads like Remender’s version of Thelma and Louise. It’s grounded in realistic struggles and plays with what people will do out of desperation, while also setting up some out-there comic booky stuff that will up the ante in future issues. Like I mentioned before, I really enjoy small crime stories that take place over a matter of weeks, and the solicitation mentioned that this one does indeed take place over a short period of time. I think short term stories are an interesting structure that can really test a writer’s ability to develop characters and plots realistically. It’s not easy, especially with ongoing comic books, but I’m sure Remender is at the point in his career where he wants to test his strength and scope as a writer, so Death or Glory comes along at a perfect time to do just that.
At first I wasn’t sure Bengal was the right choice of artist for this book. The only major thing I’ve read with him as the artist was some of his Supergirl issues, which isn’t really what one would think would transfer well to a fast-paced cross country heist story. I’ll be the first to admit I was wrong. Bengal has really proved himself as an artist with this first issue. He has a very nice and bubbly quality to his art, which is why it worked well on Supergirl, but with this series he takes that and adds an amazing amount of life and expression.
The action scene at the end of the issue was so fast-paced that even the most capable artist could have problems illustrating it without losing clarity of the events, but to the contrary, I actually felt like I was in the moment. This last scene speaks to Bengal’s and Remender’s strength of working together. It can often be hard in comics to convey a sense of confusion and panic within an action scene without it coming off like the creative team themselves was confused, but this scene walked that line perfectly. My heart actually raced as I went through the plan gone awry as Glory went through it. After so many years of reading action scenes, that has never happened to me the way it did here. Glory is a great character who feels very honest, and the experience made me feel even more connected to her as a character.
This is a double sized issue, and the setup seemed to go on a little too long. While I understand there were a lot of things that had to be introduced and happen before we could get to the meat of the story, it did drag a bit. That being said, the scene mentioned above made up for it almost entirely.
Death or Glory #1 is a wonderful start to a creative partnership that just feels right. I’m a huge fan of Remender and have read nearly all of his Image work. If you’ve read my Deadly Class reviews, I I rant and rave about Wes Craig’s genius regularly, but even then I don’t feel the chemistry that I felt in this issue between Remender and Bengal. They’ve really got something special going, and even if this series doesn’t end up being a smash hit, I can’t wait to see what these two go on to make. Who knows? It might even come to rival the greatest artist/writer partnerships in all of comics.