In 2001, game developer Bungie captured lightning in a bottle with Halo, a sci-fi themed first person shooter video game for Microsoft’s new console, the Xbox. Players stepped into the armored boots of a super soldier named Master Chief, who led a small task force of UNSC Marines to a remote ringworld, the titular Halo. From 2001 to 2010, the Halo earned stellar critical acclaim and secured a proud space in the annals of industry history. To capitalize on the popularity of these games, books and comics were written to expand on the fiction and lore as presented in the Bungie games. Of the work that was produced, Eric Nylund’s Halo: The Fall of Reach was the first novel to tie into the game and set the tone for its expanded universe.

The Fall of Reach was a success and later adapted into a graphic novel in 2010, the same year Bungie launched their final Halo game, Halo: Reach. Both the video game and graphic novel capture the essence of the major conflict that set the Halo universe in motion. That said, the two stories couldn’t be any more different from each other. The two products take place concurrently, with the video game focusing on a squad of SPARTANs in their losing battle against the alien Covenant race. The graphic novel, like the book, puts the spotlight on series protagonist Master Chief and charts his life from the moment he was kidnapped as a child for the SPARTAN-II program to his battle to prevent Reach’s destruction. The story doesn’t end well and I wouldn’t necessarily count that as a spoiler. This story is six years old and anyone with an interest in Halo already knows how this story ends.

As someone who has played the Halo series extensively, the reprinting of this trade paperback seems oddly timed. I’m struck wondering who this graphic novel is for at this point in time. Anyone that would consider themselves a Halo devotee more than likely read these comics already when they were originally published by Marvel six years ago. If it’s meant to attract new series fans that were picked up after Halo 4 was released, I would expect more interest in the series’ current narrative direction (Bungie left the Halo franchise to work on their new game and another studio has taken the reins to continue the Halo story). To me, re-releasing the original three volumes in a single trade paperback comes off as a bit of a cash grab. It’s not like the original books aren’t particularly hard to find, either. Amazon sells all three volumes individually at a reasonable price. I might think otherwise if this newest edition had some bonus content, like interviews, concept art, and whatnot. Instead, the last few pages of the collection is a simple, no frills cover gallery.

The content of the graphic novel isn’t bad, though. It’s a meaty story that lets fans see John as he was before he was conscripted into the UNSC’s super soldier project where he became Master Chief. There are hints of a larger conflict going in around Earth’s colonized systems, but the presence of a civil war gets very little mention. Despite the SPARTANS being developed to quell the brewing colonial rebellion, their use in the field is shifted to a larger military operation against the Covenant, a loose organization of different alien races that have been whipped up into a religious fervor by Prophets who deem humanity’s extinction as the will of the gods. The latter of the graphic novel shows John grow into his role as the perfect, badass military soldier (so perfect, in fact, that I feel his characterization neatly fits inside the Mary Sue archetype).

The graphic novel adaptation of Halo: The Fall of Reach is a light and entertaining element of the Halo transmedia empire. However, the re-release feels somewhat dated. Gamers that know Halo inside and out already know this story and I’m not sure it has the same resonance it did back when the novel was published or when Bungie rode off into the sunset with the Reach video game. It probably doesn’t help that the latest game, Halo 5: Guardians, moved the spotlight away from Master Chief, turning him into a secondary character. I’m just not sure this collection is going to be as popular. On the other hand, it’s a decent enough sci-fi story about super soldiers blasting aliens on the ground and in space, with lots of colorful action scenes and mighty explosions. Who isn’t entertained by that?

Halo: Fall of Reach
by Brian Reed
Art by Felix Ruiz
ISBN: 9781506700779
Dark Horse, 2016
Publisher Age Rating: Teen (13+)

  • Allen

    | He/Him Past Reviewer

    Allen Kesinger is a Reference Librarian at the Newport Beach Public Library in California. He maintains the graphic novel collections at the library, having established an Adult collection to compliment the YA materials. When not reading graphic novels, he fills his time with other nerdy pursuits including video games, Legos and steampunk.

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