¦ Reviews ¦ The
Ballad of Halo Jones
Ballad of Halo Jones
Moore and Ian Gibson
this book from Amazon.co.uk
What to Expect:
Where did she go? What did she do? More pertinently, why don’t you know
Review by Adam
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.
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.
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
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
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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