The third and final book in the Halo Jones ballad is also the longest, both in the actual length of the story as well as the length of time that passes in Halo’s life within the tale – the first book was just one day, the second took place over one year, this one covers over a decade. Having just re-read this graphic novel I think I can safely say that (in my opinion at least) book three is not just the best in Halo’s ballad, but one of the best science-fiction graphic novels ever made. Let’s get into the meat shall we?
So one of the first things I noticed about this book is that the artwork is an appreciable level-up from the last two, not that the previous ones were bad, just that Ian Gibson seems to have realised the quality of the material he was working with (provided by Alan Moore) and stepped up his game in response. The artwork is more detailed, with more effort in it, the backgrounds and the people are much less comic-book like (as the first two were) and more realistic, there are also more large-scale drawings and Gibson utilises a more unorthodox layout for the panels.
As for Alan Moore, he seems to have used all the imagination he had for this story as it is almost overflowing with fascinating ideas and strange concepts. One of my favourites, which features in the story for only a few panels, is a forest-planet where the trees have grown their bark into human faces, and when loggers chop them down the trees produce a sound like the scream of a child. Moore also lets loose and gives some crushing satire and social commentary on all aspects of war, xenophobia, mental health, religion, grief and friendship. Halo’s character arc is also quite brilliant, there is a lot of emotional depth and poor Halo is not spared from her share of suffering, we really get to see the emotional growth of this character from a naive girl to a life-worn, battle-scarred woman who is smarter and stronger by the end.
But the main focus of this story is war. After ending up on a dead-end planet, Halo enlists in the galactic army; she ends up fighting guerrillas in a skirmish that bears more than a passing similarity to the Vietnam war. It is here she experiences her first combat and suffers a terrible grief that is tastefully and painfully done, not that I teared up, I don’t do that, it’s only a book. What I really like is that despite the serious topics being covered in this book and the dreadful ordeals Halo goes through, Moore still keeps a constant strand of humour running throughout, it actually had me laughing out loud a few times and it really works to level the tone out and add weight to the drama bits.
“…I thought you were dead.”
“Don’t be stupid. I’ve never been dead in my life!”
Halo is then sent to fight on the planet Moab, which is where it gets really good. Moab is larger than Jupiter but is solid rock rather than gas, as a result it has a gargantuan gravitational pull that makes for some fantastic sci-fi visuals. The gravity bends both light and time, meaning that time passes at different speeds there and everything looks like it’s melting.
“…if a faulty, unchecked gravity suit should fail, its wearer will be reduced to a large red puddle, several molecules thick. Instantly.”
After various brilliant storylines and sequences end, which I won’t spoil, Halo is left totally alone, with the keys to a state-of-the-art super-doopa spaceship in which she flies away into the stars, her destination – out. It’s difficult to do justice to the story in a review, but the combination of improved, gorgeous artwork, great character arcs, ingenious and imaginative plots and concepts, engrossing commentary on war and one of the best heroines ever put to paper makes book three of the Halo Jones ballad my all-time favourite graphic novel. So yeah, check it out, if you feel like it.