I liked the first volume of this series well enough. Even though writer Rick Remender’s glorization of a life lived off the grid felt more sanctimonious than enticing, he and artist Bengal served up some impressive action with likeable characters. Going into vol. 2, I was expecting more of the same as the creators wrapped things up. What I didn’t expect to find was actual greatness once you get past the speechifying.
Unlike the majority of the stories in his creator-owned output, Remender actually delivered a happy ending at the end of this first volume. Glory, her new friends Pablo and Isabelle, and her dying father Red were joined by some of their off-the-grid friends as they rode off into the sunset towards Mexico. That was great, but you knew things weren’t going to stay good for long as the people that were going to smuggle Glory and friends across the border are hit by the enemies she made in the previous volume. This leaves her with only one place to turn: A Coyote who Red thought was too vile to deal with.
I don’t think anyone needs to be told that this deal goes bad. It’s something that anyone would see coming even if they weren’t familiar with how Remender operates as a writer. In fact, it’s also a little disappointing to realize that the only reason he had all those people come to Glory’s rescue at the end of vol. 1 was to… Well, I’ll just say that you shouldn’t get too attached to any of them here.
So yeah, there’s a lot of death, destruction, and sermonizing about the right way to go about life over the course of this volume. It’s all quite familiar and pretty annoying as well. The writer believes in a lot of the same values that you’ll find in the pages of Shonen Jump, plus a healthy dose of “live free” ethos, and I can’t really say that he’s more artful about articulating them. At least the story has some colorful villains to go after our heroes, even if “Dickless Frankenstein” pushes the boundaries of good taste, who remain likeable enough that you want to see them succeed in the end. All I’m saying here is that while the story isn’t terrible, it’s not one of the writer’s best efforts.
It’s also not hard to push through this stuff to get to the actual best part of the volume: The action. Three issues in and Glory’s crew finds themselves being chased into the desert by the Coyote and his crew in a fleet of cars and a big-ass crane carrier, all looking to harvest their organs. Once a guy jumps onto Glory’s car and uses his chainsaw to start cutting off its roof, the action clicks and it doesn’t let you go.
Seriously, the way that Remender and Bengal work together to choreograph the action here is nothing short of magic. The artist conveys an impressive sense of speed from the start and, most importantly, makes sure the action is easy to follow at every step. Even though you’re reading this on a page, the scenes work to have the intensity of motion pictures. They work effortlessly at that as you’re drawn in to the insanity that’s taking place in the comic.
And things do get insane as people are ripped out of their cars and tossed onto a doctor’s bed for their organs to be harvested. Bad guys get splattered over windshields. Glory explodes a nitro canister and sends a guy flying. The creators aren’t just good with the execution of the action, they take enormous advantage of the fact that they’re not constrained by real-life limitations in terms of what they can show you. So we get some truly amazing scenes as both sides clash in the rush through the desert.
I will admit that things do die down a bit once everyone gets into town, but only a bit and also so that Remender and Bengal can pick things up again for the end. Which winds up awkwardly between “Thematically Satisfying” and “What was the point?” But more closer to the former than the latter if I’m being honest. While I’m being honest, I’ll say that vol. 2 of “Death or Glory” is definitely a must-buy for anyone who read the first volume. While the action there was good, what’s here is some real next-level stuff. Hell, I’d even say that people who like action comics would do well to pick this up even if they haven’t read the first volume. Remender and Bengal’s work here is just that good. Too bad the story wasn’t on the same level.