Angry Robot

Halo Uprising: A Gorgeous and Rocky Start

So it was with mixed feelings that I plucked the comic off the shelf, dreading what I may find inside. I feel it only fair that first, however, I tell you what I thought of the hardcover Halo graphic novel that had been released a year prior.

The Halo Graphic Novel Published 2006:

Alright, obviously a great deal of effort and money was placed in this. The writers and artists read like the who’s who of the comic world, and the introductions and artwork make me want to rub it all over myself like tanning oil. The graphic novel consists of 4 short stories that take place from various viewpoints and time frames throughout the first two games.

And, my god, one of the artists is Moebius. It has to be good!

Alas, the entire work suffers from one major problem; Master Chief… or the lack thereof. Oh, we get a glimpse of him in The Last Voyage of the Infinite Succor. It soon changes into a yarn about how the SpecOps Commander (the jawless alien in Halo 2 for those who are confused) earned his wings. Don’t get me wrong… it’s a pretty cool story, but it is so visually jarring and inconsistent with the games that it is hard to follow. If you look very carefully, you may even see how the Commander loses half his face (bring your magnified glass or you’ll miss it among the chaos.)

The high point for me was Breaking Quarantine, drawn by Tsutomu Nihei. Personally I like the original title Sgt. Johnson Gets The Heck Out Of Flood Central, but really… it’s all semantics. What makes this story so good (aside from being visually scrumptious) is that it doesn’t bother with dialogue or cerebral bombardment. Instead it chronicles Sgt. Johnson’s escape; the escape that we were all wondering about from the original Halo. It’s simple, transcends language barriers (note: Tsutomu Nihei’s introduction is translated) and is confirms what I suspected all along: that Sgt. Avery Johnson kicks ass.

The other stories I can take or leave. They don’t really matter one way or the other. Those who only bought Halo to play online and didn’t bother with the campaign may be in for a few surprises, but really neither comic answers anything that you couldn’t get by just paying attention to the things that came before. They’re both well illustrated, but are fluff.

And anyone who believes that Second Sunrise Over New Mombassa by Brett Lewis and Moebius is in any way “deep” can bite my scrawny ass. What do we learn from it? That The Covenant attack the city for some reason that only one guy knows… but we never find out what. We end up with nothing, just a pretty but word-heavy comic. Just because something SOUNDS intellectual doesn’t mean it is… It’s like techno-babble on Star Trek; it sounds good but doesn’t mean anything.

And now Halo Uprising part 1 of 4: published 2007

According to the back cover, this is the first part of four that is supposed to chronicle the adventures of Master Chief between Halo 2 and 3. But wait a moment, At the end of Halo 2 we see Master Chief hurtling toward Earth in a pod, presumably to kick serious brute hiney, and at the beginning of Halo 3 we see him crash and kick said hiney. So… were does this comic fit in?

Ahh… Who cares, The Chief barges in like he owns the place and starts kicking it old-school right off the bat, so plot-hole forgiven.

But wait, where’d he go?

Oh dear, it seems that we’ve forgotten our previous sins and once again created a Halo comic that is in desperate need of the Man who makes it. Yes, after the first few pages we are abandoned by Master Chief and forced to follow two far less interesting characters. But I’ll get back to that.

Halo Uprising is gorgeous. Maybe not in the Moebius or Tsutomu Nihei sense. But the visuals (by Alex Maleev) are absolutely spot-on to the comic, which is more than I can say for Second Sunrise or Last Voyage. Everything here has been reproduced perfectly from the videogame, and fits beautifully in the comic form. Special note to the guns, which actually look better carried by the comic characters than they do by The Arbiter and Master Chief in the game (when you play co-op, take a look at the other player. Like really, who holds anything straight out in front of them like that?)

There; a little praise and kudos to the artwork. Now the story:

There are two plots going on here. The first involves the Brutes looking for “the key” which is somewhere is Cleveland. I can only assume this plot is cool, because it’s REALLY hard to tell. If the key is anything like what we see emerge from beneath New Mombassa in Halo 3, then my disbelief lies in imagining ANYTHING mysterious could be buried below Cleveland. However, it is only the first part of four and I suppose anything could happen. It could ACUALLY be a key for all I know.

The second plot line, which takes up the majority of the comic, involves a concierge and a lounge singer trying to escape the city, and here is where my trouble begins. I was hoping a bit more from Brian Bendis, but the dialogue is a crime. When these two talk, it is in the least natural, most awkward way possible. There is a moment were the concierge is thinking to himself “I think I am going to throw up on my own shoes” (or something, I don’t have the comic in my hand at the moment) which is a weird but acceptable thing to think, but it is followed shortly by the Singer actually SAYING “I think I am going to throw up on my own shoes.” Someone might be fooled into thinking it’s funny, or clever, or that maybe the strange style of dialogue is even artistic in a contemporary sense… but it’s not… it’s just dumb, and takes away from the story.

These two are not interesting, they do not do anything interesting, and in a story about survivors in war they could have been far more sympathetically written.

But hark! On the horizon! Master Chief returns and gives us hope. For this first installment we are at least left with a good-looking cliff hanger involving our favourite Spartan to keep us reading.

This comic looks SO good and has the potential to pick up. I am definitely going to continue with it and cross my fingers In hopes that something heavy will kill the concierge and the lounge singer before we have to put up with much more of them.