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Home ¦ Reviews ¦ The Ballad of Halo Jones

Slaine - Warrior's Dawn
The Ballad of Halo Jones
by Alan Moore and Ian Gibson

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What to Expect: Where did she go? What did she do? More pertinently, why don’t you know yet?

Review by Adam Crabtree
10th July 06

Meet Alan Moore. Alan’s going to be the best at what he does someday; perhaps he already is and it’s simply a matter of time before the fact is publicised. In the meantime he’s a young writer with a new project for the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic, a science fiction adventure comic, the repertoire of which features a platoon of battle-bots with broad, cartoonish personalities, a blue berk who turns to his backpack when he needs a little conversation, and a future lawman whose policy is not so much “zero tolerance” as “extreme prejudice”. Into this mix our young writer introduces a lyrical, sensitive space opera centred on a young woman, the kind of which you might have gone to school with, served form behind a counter (or vice versa) or bought a house on the same neighbourhood.

Uh… Oops?

The Ballad Of Halo Jones was to be something of a prophetic work, not only for the future heights and thematic journeys of Alan Moore’s literature (and it truly is), but for the many assorted struggles with authority and issues of propriety that would so plague his career (catch that “LXG” film?). It is at once representative of one of 2000AD’s finest hours, and one of its darkest tragedies.

Slaine - Warrior's Dawn

Book One of the projected four to ten book set (accounts vary) begins with a sock to the jaw from Robo-Hunter’s Ian Gibson, never better than when evoking grand scenes such as the opening zoom-in through space to the Earth, right down to the floating slum-land Purgatory of “The Hoop”. This is the home of our eponymous heroine, a fairly introspective and cryptic character who leaves the more ostentatious character moments to live-in chum Rodice, who provides the tale with some future weaponry based slapstick.

Exploits with calm inducing “Zenades” as Rodice tries to protect herself and Halo from the variegated dangers of the Hoop are handled with a panache that exceeds annoying buffoonery and provide moments of comedy that are a far cry from the later darkness of Book Three…

As explained before, the simple action fare of Judge Dredd, Rogue Trooper et al is thrown into stark relief by the distinctly measured and cerebral journeys of Halo and company as they go on shopping expeditions, watch mindless soap operas (a target for much bile throughout the series), fend off attacks from deranged gangs of Drummers and nurse dreams of escaping from the grim monotony of the Hoop. Literally a water going prison for the unemployed, the Hoop is a very different animal from the mile-a-minute mania of Mega City One, with even the most pleasant and diverting social events inciting anger amongst the tightly packed and utterly impotent citizens.

As tragedy piles upon tragedy, and the happier us-against-the system, living-as-we-can attitude of Halo and company is inevitably broken, and our hitherto quiet heroine resolves to get out, by any means necessary. Bringing the heavy coming of age element of the first two books to the fore, Halo must cut loose from her old life as she gets a job (a miracle of miracles in the Ballad universe) on a space going cruise ship.

Ian Gibson makes his presence felt in every panel, his and Moore’s considerable creativity evoking a world where dolphins have made their presence felt as logical sentients, and alien Proximan immigrants intermingle with desolate humans. This continues into Book Two, where the good ship Clara Pandy is rendered in workmanlike corridors, elegant ballrooms and surprisingly well furnished quarters for Halo and her new pal Toy. As the two girls make their way as stewardesses the ideas just keep on coming, and Moore weaves in a number of threads that enforce the feeling of consistency in the Ballad universe, with radical militants opposing war in the Tarantula system cropping up onboard, characters such as billionaire Lux Roth Chop and charismatic General Luiz Cannibal being alluded to and plot threads that will run through Book Three being introduced. We also get a neat little prologue to Book Two that displays Halo’s greater destiny as a historical figure in her own right, an insight that will only serve to fuel the imagination when the book is fully read…

Slaine - Warrior's Dawn
Wonderfully understated, yet at the same time bringing incredible scale to the proceedings, these two books are merely the aperitif for Book Three. Halo, her time on the Pandy long finished and her dreams and ambition defeated by the hunt for legal employment, grows older and drunker. In limbo, she grasps the opportunity to fight in the Tarantula War as a raw recruit. Her training is shown, with her other laudable skills gradually being shunted out the way by the practical apathy and self deception a soldier must acquire and the claustrophobia of her situation. A clear allegory for the Vietnam War, this is of course equally relevant in the present world climate.

Ian Gibson attacks the page with a fury of beautiful alien, yet all too terrestrial architecture (Christianity has become a fringe religion, kept alive in remote colonies such as those in Tarantula, replaced by worship of the great socio-psychological thinkers). His pen creates battle suits, barrooms, settlements and command cruisers that look suitably spacey yet credible, and his work is brimming with heart.

Each episode is more or less self contained, offering vignettes of the soul stripping life of far future soldiery held together by ongoing threads, which later develop into the compellingly ghastly coda for the Ballad, that leaves one shocked and sorrowful, but ultimately full of hope.

Thus, the “Ballad” becomes an unfinished symphony; Alan Moore’s disagreements over the ownership of his characters and settings put him at odds with the 2000AD brass, as did demands to up the ante with the action. Future instalments, wherein Halo’s life until death would have been portrayed, remain unpenned, and in this we can probably isolate the greatest tragedy in 2000AD’s history.

Buy the book, and if you’ve never read it before do it carefully, and slowly and more than once. Savour it, because it ends all too soon, and even today we of the faithful Tooth readership cannot expect to see its like in those pages again.

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Original content (c) 2002 Gavin Hanly (contact 2000AD Review).