Wassup, Milo here. Before we start, this is an excellent guest review from Elliot of Wildlife & Words. So, if you like what you see, and wanna see more from Elliot, I’mma link to both Wildlife & Words (nature) and his other blog, Otherworlds Of Film (movies), below. Anyway, enough of my crap…
From the mind of the legendary graphic novel writer Alan Moore (Watchmen, Batman: The Killing Joke and other insanely good comics) and the hand of artist Ian Gibson (Judge Dredd, Robo-hunter) comes the most compelling and kick-ass fictional female character since Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley. ‘The Ballad of Halo Jones’ was written as three ‘books’ and first published in the famous mag 2000AD in weekly instalments from July 1984 onwards. The character was initially dreamt up as a contrast to the “Guns, guys and gore” that typified 2000AD stories at the time, an everyday relatable girl who dreams of escape from her average life, rather than a “Tough Bitch With A Disintegrator And An Extra Y-Chromosome” which was then most people’s idea of a ‘strong’ female sci-fi character.
Anyway, the review; so, book one is essentially an introduction to the character of Halo and the world that she lives in, there is relatively little action and it is set entirely on Earth and covers the time-span of just one day. Which could have been boring, were it not for the fascinating, sleazy and highly-detailed world that Gibson created and for the immediately likeable and relatable character of Halo – as well as her witty friend Rodice. Any fan of science-fiction should smile with childish glee at the remarkable future-scape that is presented within these pages in glorious black and white – it’s like the Star Wars universe, the Alien universe and the 1950’s vision of the future collided together and melded into one.
It may be set on Earth but you don’t even realise that until half-way through the book, thanks to the main setting being a huge city in the shape of a bagel that is floating on the Atlantic Ocean just off Manhattan island. This nasty place is essentially the worst ghetto imaginable, a bit like the bad bits of Los Angeles but with big space lizards and gangs of people who will beat you up for not wearing the latest fashions. Of course, as you would expect for an eighties comic, despite the futuristic setting there is plenty of social-commentary on the present (well, the eighties present, although some of it is still relevant) such as commercialism, racism, gangs, politics etc.
What I do love about this particular book in the Halo ballad is that it could very easily be set in any time or place as its core ideas are so universal. A young, single, unemployed woman who is flat-sharing with a couple of mates, she lives in an unpleasant and terribly dull neighbourhood with no prospects to speak of, she dreams of escape, of travel, of getting away, but has no idea how. You could set it in modern-day London or America just as easily – although you would rather miss the ray-guns and holograms.
I say there isn’t much action, but Moore and Gibson still manage to turn a mundane shopping trip into an exhausting, highly dangerous adventure filled with near-death experiences. We get through several riots, a couple of close-shave encounters with muggers and a rather saddening murder. It impresses me that, within this one book, a world is established, with all its weird, twisted language and alien infrastructure, and our main character is not only introduced but the reader actually feels a connection with and an investment in Halo Jones by the end.
I could go on for ages about Gibson’s art style here; for one thing, I love the contrast between the incredibly confusing, detailed, grimy-looking and unattractive surroundings of the Hoop on which Halo lives with the beautiful, graceful, sleek and very attractive design of the vast space-cruiser the ‘Clara-Pandy’ that turns up on Earth to be dismantled. It just does a good job of making life on Earth seem utterly awful and life amongst the stars seem like the ultimate dream. Which makes it all the more satisfying when Halo finally decides to break out of the Hoop and manages to get a job aboard the now re-instated ‘Clara-Pandy’ just before it heads out into the galaxy. We can’t wait to find out where she ends up.
A few nice little details I noticed while reading book one –
- ‘Zenades’ – egg-shaped weapons that render your attacker totally harmless by sending them into a trance-like state of pure Zen – just the best idea ever.
- The robot dog Toby is a fun sidekick with an acerbic and witty personality, but with just an edge of menace to him so that the reader is left unsure if he is to be trusted.
- The alien lizard people who also live on the Hoop have quite brilliantly funny and rather odd names – ‘Snivelling Earthquake’ for example.
- The appallingly-cheesy female news presenter ‘Swifty-Frisko’ is both rather amusing and unnervingly familiar…
- Another weapon – the ‘Sputstik’, sprays a mist into your opponents’ face that causes them to vomit uncontrollably. I want one of those.
- I love the description of mice as ‘…like rats, only they were littler and they couldn’t talk…’
So, that’s book one done, about as good an introduction to a sci-fi space epic as you’re gonna get, reviews for books two and three of Halo’s ballad will be coming shortly, in the meantime why not get yusself a copy o’ Halo Jones and see wha’ all the fuss is about.
Wildlife & Words: wildlifeandwords.wordpress.com
Otherworlds Of Film: otherworldsfilm.wordpress.com