Halo Jones is a nobody. Her birth wasn’t prophesied to bring balance to any sort of religious organization and her life is not tied to a destiny that would make her the catalyst for revolution or the rebirth of some long lost civilization. Halo Jones is just a girl living life as best she can in the rough and tumble year of 4931. The Ballad of Halo Jones is a story told in three books, each detailing specific moments of her life: a street wise resident of the Hoop, a stewardess aboard a luxury liner and as a soldier fighting in a violent war. The first book introduces a young Halo and her misadventures on the Hoop, a large circular living space located on the ocean a few miles from Manhattan and functions as a home to the poor and other unwanted huddled masses. She often dreams of traveling through the stars, but the harsh realities of the Hoop – where a simple shopping trip is pure anarchy – threaten to keep her in place. The second book finds Halo as a stewardess aboard the Clara Pandy, an intergalactic cruise liner en route to the edge of the universe, where she makes friends with an Amazonian and a humanoid who has undergone so many gender transfers, it can’t remember if it is a man or woman. In the final chapter of the graphic novel, Halo Jones has enlisted with the Army and is caught up in an intergalactic war in the Tarantula Nebula where an unrelenting enemy and dangerous environmental conditions turn a once happy-go-lucky gal into a damaged, psychological mess.
Originally serialized in the British comic magazine 2000 A.D., Alan Moore and Ian Gibson created The Ballad of Halo Jones out of their desire to break from the magazine’s norm of depicting muscle bound super men that allowed their guns and brawn to do the talking. I can imagine that, at the time, Halo Jones must have been a breath of fresh air for some because unlike, say, Judge Dread, she is a simple human being with no powers or magical abilities. She lives, she laughs and she loves. For the most part, Jones’ life is pretty mundane until she boards the Clara Pandy and sets off on an adventure the likes she never thought to imagine. Jones is a confident woman who knows what she wants and tries to find ways to better her life and enjoy herself in the process. Alan Moore’s characterization of Jones is so enthralling, that the reader can quickly form a bond with her.
Moore must have found some measure of delight in confusing the reader by injecting a deep lexicon of galactic slang and he makes no effort to provide translations for the bevy of crazy words and phrases. Moore did put some thought into the construction of these phrases however, and if you think about each one for a bit, it is easy to extrapolate a meaning. That said, for the first few chapters you’ll feel very much like Arthur Dent, wandering around in a constant state of confusion as the fish stuck in your ear translates alien dialects. Speaking of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the graphic novel offers a nod to Douglas Adams by introducing dolphins as the most intelligent and important race in Jones’ universe.
Moore’s playfulness comes to an end in the final book of the graphic novel, as Jones’ experiences with fighting a war in the Tarantula Nebula leads to the saddest chain of events in her life. From the moment she leaves the Clara Pandy, Jones’ freewheeling days are over as a Vietnam-style galactic conflict against indigenous guerrillas takes over her life and forces her down a path of violence, darkness, and pain. The sudden change in tone is horrifying as both Halo and the reader are forced to bear witness to the atrocities of a battle fought on a planet with gravity so severe, it can instantly turn any unprotected soul into a puddle of blood. Moore’s use of gravity as a plot mechanic towards the end of the chapter is exquisite and sent a shiver down my spine.
Followers of 2000 A.D. and the old Marvel Star Wars comics will recognize the detailed-oriented artwork of Ian Gibson and while he is an accomplished illustrator, I find his work hard to follow. Drawn exclusively in black and white, Gibson has a kind of “everything and the kitchen sink” approach to drawing panels in The Ballad of Halo Jones. You will rarely find Halo by herself as the majority of panels are crammed with ancillary objects, people, and creatures. Certain panels and splash pages got to be so overwhelmingly busy that I had a difficult time discerning the focal point of the page. The artwork is not bad by any means; it’s just too busy.
The Ballad of Halo Jones is a worthwhile read for fans of Alan Moore and those looking for a good adventure story featuring a down to earth character. It is acceptable for the young adult crowd, as the book is light on questionable content. As a bonus, readers looking to research literary and artistic forms of anti-war sentiment could easily reference the final chapter of the comic.
The Ballad of Halo Jones
by Alan Moore
Art by Ian Gibson
2000 A.D., 2010
Publisher Age Rating: 13