Saturday, 25 June 2011

The Ballad Of Halo Jones - Alan Moore & Ian Gibson

I haven’t read Halo Jones since it first appeared in the comic 2000AD and this is the first time I’ve read it in its entirety. It takes it to a whole new level. I always remembered it as powerful, it was clear I never appreciated the subtlety (although that may be as much to do with the print medium – the comic wasn’t exactly on high quality paper). Whatever the case, it was perfect material for 1984 and it just got better as it progressed.

Halo Jones is a young woman living in the 50th century. An ordinary young woman in a dead end existence, desperate to get out of the sink estate to which she had been confined. She was not particularly clever (although street-wise), she was not possessed of super powers or criminal tendencies, she was just ordinary. And therein is the power of the story, because she reflected the everyday experience of a lot of people.

In her determination to get out, she takes lowly jobs where she can find them, finds her old friendships and certainties breaking up or being destroyed, and ends up serving in the military as the only way of getting a roof over her head and food in her belly. And when she tries to walk away from that she realises there is nothing else left but the hell of combat.

Cheery stuff for a comic. Yet the story is leavened with wit and sympathy. And Halo is nothing if not resourceful. Although further stories were planned, they never got produced and it is in some ways fitting that she fades out of history.

The storyline is strong and subtle. Much of the back story (and there is a lot of it) is introduced without pages of exposition. The characters are beautifully rounded. And Moore is not afraid to kill people off in ways consistent with the world in which they live. He is not afraid to explore the experience of readers as well. The Glyph is, ironically, a memorable character.

Gibson’s drawing is excellent throughout. His use of light is extremely skilled, a new angle seems to be found at every turn, and his ability to conjure complex scenes in black and white without ever losing the important stuff in a fussy background fills me with awe. As for the colour cover of this edition – love at first sight.