The Complete Ballad Of Halo Jones
by Alan Moore and Ian GibsonAll Halo Jones wants to do is escape. She's a normal 50th-century woman, living in a floating metropolis known as the Hoop. It's a crowded ghetto where violence breaks out at the slightest provocation, or even none, and where people stand in line for jobs that don't exist. She lives with three housemates and a robot dog, and even going out to shop is a dangerous mission that takes careful planning.
Then a luxury spaceship arrives in port, and Halo sees her ticket out of her old life. However, she's very attached to her friends, and leaving Earth will mean leaving them behind. What price is she prepared to pay for the chance to travel?
Halo is extremely likeable. She doesn't start with any particular set of skills, so she has to do anything and everything she can to reach for the stars. But life keeps getting in the way of her ambition. At one point she ends up stuck on a planet with extremely high gravity, and it's as if even the planet is conspiring to pull her down and keep her trapped.
Halo's universe is colourful and vicious, a mix of extremes. She rubs shoulders with the rich and powerful, and she sees everything from atrocities to the awe-inspiring. On the Hoop they speak a very distinctive slang that's nonetheless easy to understand. There are aliens that live in uneasy proximity to humans, gangs of headbanging cult members, and there's a tusk-faced giant called Luiz Cannibal who is waging a war that spans several planets. Halo realises that she's being brutalised by her experiences, but it's these moments of clarity that make her so much more sympathetic. She isn't a hard nut, but her character is very rounded and believable, and I felt it easy to root for her.
There are plenty of moments of unexpected pathos. What happens in the petrified forest, with its peculiar ageing effect, is particularly moving. And the ending is also very strong. This is quite a contrast with the light, comedic start of the story, which has the appearance of being an undemanding space adventure. Depth is the last thing you expect in this format, but it's what you get. Ian Gibson's black and white artwork is distinctive and, I think, kind of cheerful. Sometimes it's hard to distinguish between different faces, though. However, this isn't enough of a drawback to stop this being a graphic novel I'd enjoy reading again and again.
7th October 2013
Review © Ros Jackson