Well if you can read this it means I haven’t fucked up our new update template and caused a rift in the time-space continuum, leading to our world being run by a savage warrior race of ants who rule use humans with iron pincers. Why should such a think happen because of a hole in space and time? Because of quantum, that’s why.
This week I finally got my copy of the Halo Graphic Novel. Now lemme tell you, despite loving superheroes and especially supervillains, I gave up on reading comics years ago for many reasons. Mostly due to characters continually coming back from the dead, the universe being reset so they can keep changing a characters origins, and clones. I fucking hate clones; this includes aliens posing as members of a superhero team.
So when I heard Halo, my most beloved of all games, was getting a Graphic Novel courtesy of Marvel, I winced. I used to read Spider-Man and a smidgen of other comics before I gave up due to them being too expensive and just plain crap. I do occasionally buy the odd graphic novel, usually a Deadpool one (I like Deadpool, he makes me laugh while he guts people, or used to before they teamed him up with Cable, the dullest hero ever to come out of the mind of Rob Liefeld, and forgot how to write decent jokes bar the odd one). But I gave the Halo Graphic Novel the benefit of the doubt and bought it for the discounted price of £12.99 from Play.com. So, is it a bad as I expected? No. Is it very good…uhm, not really no.
I’m going to talk about the four different stories here, so as I set sail on the good ship HMS Lothar’s Opinion I shall warn you there is a major chance of hitting large iceberg like objects called spoilers. This took about an hour to tpye so it’s a lengthy read.
Story One: Last Voyage of the Infinite Succor:
Now this I quite like. It tell’s the story of the Special Ops Elite from Halo 2 Rtas ‘Vadumee, commonly known as “Half-Jaw” among Halo fans. It actually takes place during Halo 1 as Master Chief makes his way to find Captain Keyes in the Swamps of the facility, little realising the Flood awaits him. A Covenant dropship controlled by the Flood manages to take off and heads towards the fleet circling Halo, where it crashes into and takes over the ship from the title of the piece, the Infinite Succor. Half-Jaw and his troops are dispatched to the ship and pretty much everything goes tits up from there.
What I like about this story is that it gives us a little bit of information about a minor, but well like character from Halo 2, Half-Jaw. We learn about his previous relationship with the Arbiter, who apparently appears in this story as the Supreme Commander of the Covenant Fleet of Particular Justice. We see how Half-Jaw fights and treats the troops under his command, and how far he’ll go to protect the Covenant. We also learn a bit more about the Flood, how they are not just space zombies, but are an intelligent force who actually learn from the creatures and organism they absorb, knowing how to pilot the ship and the access codes needed to operate it from the crew and rescue operation.
The art is also impressive…up to a point. I like how the Covenant aliens, technology, the Chief, and environments look. Simon Bisley is a very talented artist and his gritty style suits the comic well…until he starts drawing the Flood. Part of the story focuses on the Flood infecting alien animals in the Infinite Succor’s hunting preserve, and this is where Bisley just starts drawing any old shit that has come into his mind. Not the animals themselves mind, but the Flood infected ones which just look ridiculous. I know he must have had some reference pictures, so why does he insist on drawing about 36 extra mouths and 50 extra eyes on ANYTHING that has been infected by the Flood is beyond me. I suppose it’s supposed to look frightening and grotesque, but to me it just looks really fucking stupid. There’s one creature which is essentially a purple blob with a mouth and a tongue, on that tongue is another mouth with eyes, and its own tongue standing next to this is some other creatures that look genuinely ridiculous. If it wasn’t for this I would have enjoyed the story a lot more. Some people might criticise me for not enjoying it as much because of the way an artist has drawn something, but this is a comic book, a highly visual medium, and if something looks this stupid it doesn’t lend much credence to the artist.
Story Two: Armour Testing: (Yes, I’m typing armour instead of armor. I’m British, specifically English, so I’m sticking with the PROPER way to spell it. Just ask any other English speaking country how to spell the world and they’ll give you the original spelling, not the American one.)
Now this really does seem like a pretty pointless story to me. It really doesn’t show anything new or interesting in the Halo universe and just seems there to fill space. Oh sure in the stories foreword it gives the explanation that they’re showing that the Mjolnir armour doesn’t just given to Chief…but does anybody really care about watching another Spartan bound around a bit and shoot O.D.S.T.’s with purple paint? Yes, that’s pretty much the entire story in a nutshell, until we learn that this particular Spartan is one of the female ones that decided to quit the military IN THE MIDDLE OF A FUCKING WAR FOR HUMANITY’S SURVIVAL to start a family.
Now let’s think about this for a second, while I understand the Spartan wanting to do this, it really makes no sense for two main reasons. First, why the hell did the military let her retire in the first place? By this point in the Halo timeline, humanity has been waging war with the Covenant for about 20 or 30 years, getting completely fucked in the process that the human race is now on the brink of extinction. The only weapons that we have that the Covenant actually fears are the Spartans, who are also the most effective against them. So my question is this: WHO THE HELL LET HER QUIT? Seriously, it just makes no sense for the military to agree to let her retire in the middle of the war. Now I can think that they still want to treat the Spartans as normal human beings, with all the rights thereof, but considering this is the same military that kidnapped the Spartans when they were six years old, trained them to become vicious killing machines (killing over half of them in the process), you’d think denying her the right to quit would be like deciding if they should breathe oxygen for the day or not for them. “Sure you can quit…AS SOON AS WE’RE NOT FUCKING FACING EXTINCTION! NOW GET OUT THERE AND SLAUGHTER SOME GRUNTS!”
My other problem is this. The Spartan (Maria) decides she wants kids, fair enough…but she has first hand knowledge of what the Covenant can do to a planet and how easy it is for them to simply wipe out humanity. How the hell do you bring kids into the world knowing something like that? “Oh hey my babies will probably die when the Covenant either glass the planet from orbit, or invade and slaughter anything that looks vaguely like a human, but they’re so cute and I WANT SOME!” Yeah, have kids so they can die horribly, what a lovely mother. I hope she lived in New Mombasa.
Story Three: Breaking Quarantine:
Now this just seems like a really pointless “story.” When I first heard of it I heard it was going to be how Sergeant Johnson escapes the Flood and escapes Halo. But it just shows how Sarge managed to escape from the Flood and get back to the surface. It’s done by a very talented Japanese artist Tsutomu Nihel and he does a good job, but it’s really just Sarge running, shooting, and jumping, so it’s not really revelatory or interesting.
Story Four: Second Sunrise over New Mombasa:
Now this story is interesting as it shows us the civilian side of the Halo universe, which we’ve never really seen before aside from the Haunted Apiary game. It tells the story of a man in New Mombasa who works as journalist, hired by the military to put a positive spin on the fact mankind is being systematically wiped out. Then the Covenant attack and everything goes tits up as they start pretty much slaughtering everybody. While hiding, he manages to record a message translated from the Elites stating that they are trying to seal of the city as they are attempting to find the Ark. He’s then ordered to get the message out of the city on the very last boat leaving, as all communications out of the city have been cut off. He gets there, pushes his way through, but stops and gives a little girl his laptop with the translated message and puts her on the boat instead, he does so realising that the message probably won’t get to the military. It’s a nice enough story, showing civilian life carrying on and just how far the military is going to try and stop the world from panicking from the constant threat of Covenant attacks. But when the Covenant do attack everything goes to pot and you see how the military and civilians handle the attack, mostly though blind panic.
Unfortunately, I’m not impressed with the art, which is done by the “famous” comic artist “Moebius” who seems to carry a lot of weight around the industry, but I really can’t see why. It seems all a little…rushed, with very simplistic drawing, colouring and shading, and the guy can’t decide how to draw an Elite, having them in different armour, and also on one page we see two un-helmted elites whose heads and mouths look very different from each other, with one looking like he doesn’t have the upper set of “squid lips” at all.
I know it’s a book that shows off a a few different art styles, but honestly, there’s a load of artists in the back of the book (various Halo pictures done by other artists) who could have told this story visually so much better.
So what do I think of the book overall? Initially I was very disappointed, but some of the stories grew on me a little, and I ended up liking them a lot, however the lacklustre writing and art of Armour Testing, the lack of point to that story and as well as Breaking Quarantine didn’t really do anything for me, just like some of the art in Infinite Succor and the art in New Mombasa didn’t sit well we with either.. If you’re just getting into the Halo universe I wouldn’t recommend it as you need to know a lot of background information for most of the stories, and if you do already have that background information you’ll probably be wondering a few things along the lines of my thoughts. If you’re a Halo fan you’ll probably enjoy some of it, I know I enjoyed a bit of it, but there’s always at least one thing in a story that probably won’t sit right with you. Is it worth the $24.99 in the USA, or the £17-20 in the UK? If you can get it for about $15-20/£12-15 or just over, I’d say it’d be a decent purchase, otherwise it’s hard to justify paying more for it.
Also I must be honest and say that this novel doesn’t really give me much confidence in the newly announced Halo monthly comic, which is also being done by Marvel. I can see it all now, all the Spartans die, but are brought back to life 12 months later because the Flood cloned them to study them, then Chief gets warped to a parallel dimension where the Covenant have won the war and he fights as part of the last remnants of a human rebellion, where he then returns to Earth to learn Cortana is pregnant with his child and the Arbiter has cancer, and then the world blows up.