Having recently reviewed the first volume of Alan Moore and Ian Gibson’s classic series, it was only a matter of time before I reacquainted myself with the continuing chronicles of Halo Jones – and, as with the first volume, it’s been an absolute joy to rediscover the series and experience it all over again, several decades later.
The second volume of The Ballad of Halo Jones begins with a prologue, in which we jump around a millennium and a half forward from the setting of Halo’s story. It’s a clever conceit that not only refreshes readers on the events and setting of the previous volume, but also brings new readers up to speed – while at the same time offering tantalising glimpses at the events still in store for our heroine back in the 50th Century.
After leaving her mundane – yet still somewhat dangerous – life on Earth’s water-bound slum The Hoop behind, Halo has become a waitress on luxury intergalactic cruise liner the Clara Pandy. Though often as similarly ordinary and uneventful in many ways as her life aboard The Hoop, we’re introduced to new friends – including one who heartbreakingly struggles to be noticed, even by Halo herself – and reintroduced to a few old ones too, including a shocking twist that completely alters one of the most pivotal events in book one.
Once again, Alan Moore’s writing is superb, though of course that shouldn’t be a surprise. Moore’s knack of deftly weaving social commentary throughout the story in a way that doesn’t come across as heavy-handed is as impressive as it ever was; not only that, but many of the themes are, sadly, still as relevant – if not even more so – today. The Hoop’s future slang is dialled way back, perhaps because here we’re mostly in the company of the very rich, incredibly privileged few who inhabit the Clara Pandy, as well as the people who cater to their whims. There are some truly powerful, incredibly affecting moments here; the loss of one particular character hit me very hard – and the situation of another familiar face that we catch up with was similarly heartbreaking. The aforementioned twist – without wishing to spoil the story – even gives us a very Terminator-esque sequence that feels even more dangerous given that Halo Jones isn’t a superhero, nor is she trained in combat. To paraphrase the lecturer from the 65th Century, Halo isn’t anyone special. Which makes her all the more remarkable and relatable as a character. She could be any one of us. We could be her. She’s a brilliant character precisely because she isn’t brilliant.
Ian Gibson’s art once again impresses; the panels full of neat touches that bring the 50th century to life, albeit in a very different setting this time around. I was once again struck by the brilliant colour by Barbara Nosenzo, which really gives Gibson’s work a new dimension. I have a real soft spot for the classic black and white art of the original series and – as I mentioned in my review of the first book – was really concerned that the colour would be awkward or spoil the purity of the art in some way, but it’s been done incredibly well. It evokes the previous few colour illustrations of Halo Jones that we saw in the pages – and on the covers – of the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic, with a wonderfully natural, painted feel, despite being digitally applied.
I’m keen to read the next book, but I know it’s going to be bittersweet, given that the series didn’t continue past its third volume. That said, I’m still glad to be spending time with one of my favourite comic book characters again; though she herself claims that ‘anybody could have done it’, the beauty of Halo Jones is that she did it.
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