If you’ve seen one apocalyptic fight, you’ve seen them all, right? Large scale battles with lots of players are big comic book playgrounds, pitting unstoppable foe versus determined good guys who have to play the underdog and somehow triumph. “Glory” #33 is the battle for Planet Earth, and Glory is determined to lead the entire super powered population of the planet against their shared enemy. But, first, she’ll have to fight Supreme to convince him she knows what she’s doing. And it isn’t pretty.
(Last warning: There are serious spoilers in this review. You might want to wait to read the book first before going any farther.)
This double-sized issue starts with a recap of all that’s gone on in the series so far, done in the widescreen blackout-panels-with-credits style that Joe Keatinge and Ross Campbell have used throughout their year on the title. After that, the issue jumps straight to the Extreme superheroics, with an epic two-page splash of dozens of characters coming together. Captions give you all of their names, and you’ll want to read through them all. For some, it’ll be a nice trip down memory lane to the early ’90s (New Men!), but for others there’ll just be a nice Easter Egg or two along the way. (“Even Newer Fourplay” made me laugh out loud.)
Then, the battle starts. It’s big, it’s sprawling, it’s epic. It’s what you expected to happen for a few issues now. And the good guys are losing. They hold their ground, but they get picked off one-by-one, including some favorites of the series. That’s the key to the fight. It isn’t told as an epic war, but rather as a series of smaller events focused on the core cast of the series. “Glory” #33 presents the immediate impacts, while some tossed-off dialogue carries the background story of how the battle is going. It all leads up to the crescendo of the double-sized issue at the end, when Glory changes to her berserker mode form and needs to be brought back down to earth by the only person who could do it in the series, Riley.
Riley knows her future. She’s seen it earlier in the series, back in issue #25. In many ways, this issue is a direct sequel to that story. 500 years in the future there, Riley is on Mars after the effective destruction of earth by Glory. Upon a somewhat happy reunion, Glory kills Riley. Knowing she’s destined to die like that, Riley chooses to change her fate and, she believes, the fate of the earth. It’s not a violation of the rules of time travel, per se. She’s making a choice to make a new future given what she knows (from a dream), and that’s to sacrifice herself now to save the planet today. When an out of control Glory kills Riley, it shocks her back to her more human form before she becomes a more devastating force than the alien invaders. “Glory” will break your heart. Keatinge turns what you think you know against you in a way that makes sense. It’s a proper twist in the story. It’s character-based and not plot mechanics based. That buys it all sorts of extra credit.
Campbell’s look has strongly defined the book for his entire run. Glory’s gotten bigger and the aliens and destruction have only gotten more detailed and grotesque. He’s cut loose in this issue to draw the most frenetic pages of the series so far and he sells them. His style might not be in the typical action comics vein, but it’s just as convincing, showing the city in ruins, the characters getting ripped apart (very “Invincible”-like), and action getting more furious with each page. His staging could stand an extra wide angle panel or two to keep things less confined, but the close up storytelling fits the story that focuses so much on its main characters.
“Glory” wraps up its run next month with another bonus-sized issue. It’ll be a very different issue from all that’s come before, just because half the cast is now dead. The impact that has on the lives of the survivors is the interesting thing now. “Glory” #33 is the issue that sells the series as a whole. Will #34 be the one to close it on a high note? Let’s hope so.