Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Comic Review: The Halo Graphic Novel

The Halo Graphic Novel was released in 2006 and compiles 4 untold stories from the science-fiction universe, only one of which is worth reading.  The one is called Last Voyage of the Infinite Succor and is set in the middle of Combat Evolved right after the Covenant inadvertently release the ruthless alien parasite known as the Flood.  Instead of taking place on the surface of Halo Installation 4 as the game does, the story intends to reveal the Covenant’s initial reaction to the Flood through the eyes of a sangheili commander named Rtas Vadum, who will later claim the title of Shipmaster and become a supporting character in Halo 2 and 3.  The comic opens in the desolate swamp of the 6th mission, where a number of the Flood manage to hijack a Spirit dropship, which they subsequently fly off the ringworld and ram into the Covenant cruiser Infinite Succor.  Rtas Vadum is training his soldiers when he receives word that the neighboring ship is under attack.  Expecting to find no more than a party of humans, the general swiftly gathers his men and flies by phantom to the Succor.  His former assumptions are soon quelled when he discovers the true culprit behind the ship’s raid, and what Vadum thought would be an easy victory escalates into a desperate struggle for survival.

This short story is a thrilling and disturbing look at the culture of the Covenant and the terror inspired by the Flood.  Amid all the green ooze, gore, and gunfire, the reader gets an interesting glimpse into the worldview and customs of the Covenant species, especially the elites, who hold values of courage, duty, and selflessness similar to those observed by our own troops; the novel effectively dispels the limited notion that the Covenant are just targets to be decimated by Master Chief.  The book also achieves moments of tragedy, particularly when the protagonist decides to slice open one of his wounded so as to circumvent his transformation into a horrific monster.  The art by Simon Bisley offers an intriguing portrayal of the Flood which is a noticeable departure from their design in the games but no less scary at any rate.  The combat scenes, many of which involved lethal swordplay between the commander and the reanimated bodies of his comrades, are gripping.  Overall, Last Voyage is a captivating thriller with ample amounts of suspense and action.

None of the other comics are long enough to tell an interesting story, numbering only 16 pages in length each.  One of them details an operation to test a new edition of Mjolnir armor, another shows how Sergeant Johnson escaped from the Flood after the video footage terminated in Combat Evolved, and the final story looks in part at the Covenant invasion of New Mombasa and the civilization that existed before it.  The Johnson comic is stripped entirely of dialogue and depends more on grotesque depictions of mutated human “combat forms” than anything to drive its plot.  The New Mombasa tale is told primarily through a boring, lifeless monologue, has a cartoonish art style, and is ultimately overshadowed by the much larger, more detailed game ODST that followed several years after the graphic novel.

In the end, only one of these 4 comics is worth reading, and for no more than $5 preferably.  Neither this graphic novel nor Uprising feature Master Chief for more than a few panels, so if the legendary Spartan hero is your main attraction to the Halo series, then you’re better off reading the Halo encyclopedia or one of the novels, such as the Fall of Reach, which so far seems like an Ender’s Game rip-off to me but is enjoyable brain candy nonetheless.  That, or you can go buy Halo 4.  Were it so easy...

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