DEATH OR GLORY #1 / Writer: Rick Remender / Artist: Bengal / Letterer: Rus Wooton / Publisher: Image Comics / Published: May 2, 2018
Death or Glory #1 is a unique little entity in the world of comics. Rick Remender and Bengal blend a variety of tones together to great success. This book is quite crass at times and very violent at others, but it also has a lovable oddball community of folks who live off the grid; no SIN, no debt. Our lead character, Glory Owen, comes from this community, and we spend the majority of Death or Glory #1 in her head. Bengal gives her a nice aesthetic, both in and out of uniform. The back half of Death or Glory #1 is a masterpiece of mistakes made during Glory’s first attempt at a heist.
The opening of Death or Glory #1 falls into the violent category. It feels like a violent gag at first, when a man orders a 123 cheeseburgers at closing time and kills when his request is denied, but its a teaser for the path Glory crashes into by the issue’s end. The opening introduces readers to one of the villains of the story, whose gimmick is a liquid nitrogen gun. Bengal does incredible work with lighting in this issue. It can be reflected or produced by many sources, and the nitrogen gun has a freeze effect that gives panels a frosty filter. He also uses the neon glow of signs and buildings to cut through the thick darkness of the night. A light may be on in the central room of a house, but from the outside we can see its faint glow in other rooms through the windows. I also like how Bengal has hair reflect light, so that even the same head of hair has a variety of shades within it. Bengal’s figure work, for both cars and humans, is top notch. Many of the cars we see are rebuilds from scrap parts, and Bengal gives vehicles a level of gritty detail and cross-hatched shading to reflect this. The vehicle heist sequence is some of the best art I’ve seen in a while, a mixture of expressive figures and dramatic coloring.
Bengal’s characters are also quite dramatic, especially their eyes. His characters’ hair gains dimension through color, not pencils in Death or Glory #1, but he over accentuates facial features—like the overbites of redneck characters—to great effect. I come from redneck country and the amount of my peers I saw in the faces of Bengal’s characters surprised me. In contrast, Glory is wrapped in the French flag and given dramatic (and objectifying) body language.
Death or Glory #1 may not be for everyone, because of how crass it is. There is a lot of cussing, but it never feels unbelievable; it just feels like a bunch of country ‘bros’ talking to one another. There is also some objectification of women, but it’s never overt; when a character is staring at a woman’s breasts, Bengal’s art emphasizes the awkwardness of the situation rather than revel in the male gaze. There is a scene early on with Glory in the bath, but we never see much more than a couple of dramatic shots of her rear end, and the art goes out of its way to obscure her nakedness. It’s a bit problematic, but Rick Remender excels at exploring problematic content in satisfying ways; his Tokyo Ghost is a masterpiece of crassness with a strong message. Bengal would rather emphasize a bead of water rolling down Glory’s back than her bust.
The world of Death Or Glory is bold and dirty. Bengal does a great job of creating the aesthetic for their world, which uses both detail and the sparsity of it to create a filter of grit. Sometimes something will be covered in water-spots and cobwebs, while at other times we may see a wasteland devoid of detail but colored with dirty browns that contrast against vibrant skylines. Remender takes this beautifully realized world and fills it with characters that have slang that is fun to read aloud. Glory’s narration is poetic at times, especially when we explore her home community through her eyes. Her narration gives way to chaotic but brief thought captions, as everything goes horribly wrong in the back half of Death or Glory #1. Watching Glory struggle to navigate her way through this beautiful but brutal world is a real highlight.
As in most other Image titles, Rus Wooton takes the wheel for lettering. Not only is Remender’s script quite hefty, there is also a ton of sound effects. Wooton rises to the challenge each time. He uses color coordination and a sense of direction to enhance Bengal’s art. Bengal also uses a lot of physical effects, and the combination of these two talented creators is spectacular.
Death or Glory #1 is a great first issue, despite some problematic aspects that may put others off. We get a strong feel of the world and communities in it, and we have an incredible narrator in Glory, who manages to fight her way through a plan where everything goes wrong. The book ends on an interesting note, and I am excited to see where Rick Remender, Bengal, and Rus Wooton go next.
VERDICT: 4 Cheeseburger Orders Out Of 5