Review by Ian Keogh
There’s a fantastic idea James Robinson uses to lead off Death and Glory, one readers are best off experiencing themselves, but once Robinson’s pointed it out, it’s so obvious, making use of Deadman’s ability to possess other people’s bodies and the possibilities of comics. It’s far from the only good idea. Another concerns gangsters Batman fought back in the 1950s Batman, a trio in suits wearing helmets shaped as animal heads. They looked ridiculous, but as painted by John Estes and surrounded by darkness they’re frightening.
That’s not only one way Estes sparkles. He’s not the most imaginative when laying out a page, but when it comes to decorating that page he produces memorable results. Mystical worlds are involved and Estes uses mixed media techniques to bring that to life, as represented by the sample art, but also varies his style to incorporate the designs of different eras. The unfortunate aspect is that the spreads Estes uses are poorly bound, and so elements disappear into the central binding, making a digital version the best way to experience Death and Glory. Estes is at his best when painting in a more abstract or muddy fashion, with the less said about what’s supposed to be a pin-up page of Batman posing heroically, the better.
Robinson’s plot handicaps Batman effectively, and is propelled by the quest for immortal life. A wealthy man has been buying immortality in increments, which requires sacrifice, not a matter that concerns him, but his victims have other ideas. A suitably chilling counterpart to Deadman is introduced, and Robinson’s settings ensure Estes can maximise the visual impact.
In the 1970s Batman would frequently team with Deadman in Bob Haney’s The Brave and the Bold stories, and at times this feels as if Robinson’s paying homage, particularly with the locations and the way the plot is structured. What’s intended as a surprise revelation toward the end is something sharper readers will have already realised, but as a complete story this is very satisfying, both the plot and the art showcasing a lot of imagination.