The Ballad of Halo Jones would make a great movie. It would absolutely make a great TV show (directed by Star Trek’s David Carson). From the combined super-brain of Ian Gibson and Alan Moore, Halo Jones is definitely a good read. Originally published in the pages of British comics giant 2000 AD from 1984-1986 The Ballad of Halo Jones chronicles the life of every-gal Halo Jones, a young woman who just wanted to get out of the city, and ended up in the far reaches of outer space. It’s the kind of story that builds upon itself with previous actions and characters. With clothing, food, and the marriage of space exploration and military might, Alan Moore conjures a perfect sci-fi world that could evolve out of our modern lives.
Living on The Hoop, an entire floating city moored at the docks of New York, Halo Jones starts off innocuously enough with Halo and her roommates going on a shopping expedition. Like Noa from Sky Doll, Halo just lets the plot happen around her. Granted Sky Doll is an ongoing series that has time to drag its feet, while Halo Jones is a single volume that needs to pace itself within far fewer pages. But still, it was nice to be immediately gratified with a main character who doesn’t stumble too long before finding her feet. By the time the remaining expedition party returns to their home, Halo is ready to become to lead in a crisis situation.
From here Halo Jones really earns that title of ‘ballad’. This book spans nearly as many centuries as Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series. A rather fun plot device injected at the beginning of “book 2” helps cement the epic-journey tone of the story. Looking back hundreds of years, for one chapter we sit in on a lecture on the famous, now long dead, adventurer Halo Jones. In a beautiful way, the professor explains that Halo is not remembered for being a great leader or lover, but for embracing that need and love of adventure that we all possess to some degree. Obviously this helps to set the tone of appreciation for Halo’s very human struggle to find meaning. In the true style of a ballad there are times when Halo’s adventures are greatly detailed. Other times, like during Halo’s few years before joining the military, the narrative is spotty and full of speculation. The narrator confirms that for a time Halo fell off the map. The book continues with equally poignant monologues on Halo’s more intense moments as she finds her place in the military and ends with a sad yet hopeful farewell as she once again leaves for the open road.
Halo Jones isn’t perfect. The pace is quick, so although Halo meets many interesting characters that she forms relationships with, most of this happens in the background. There is also the dreaded goofy sidekick character who hangs along for far to long: Toby, a sentient robotic, dobberman-like dog looking for love in all the wrong places. It’s such a relief when Toby exits the story. Perhaps realizing he had created a mad robotized Astro Jetson, Moore decided that Halo’s scrappy sidekick was keeping the plot from moving forward and gave him the best fiery end a crazy robot dog could ask for.
Halo’s world is the common frightening future sci-fi America with a gargantuan military and an aristocratic class almost entirely cut off from the rest of the human race. You would expect the setting to be a mega-city like L.A. Or N.Y.C., and it is with the fun twist that this mega-city is floating off Manhattan and was created to house the undesirables of America. This mammoth floating barge is The Hoop, a reservations for the unwanted and unemployed. It is one of numerous ‘poverty reduction programs’ meant to hide all ‘the poors’ in much the same way that the Sanctuary Districts functioned in Star Trek. Jobs play an important part in Moore’s characters. Everything each character does they do for their jobs. Everywhere someone travels is at the behest of their employer or in the attempt to find an employer. It’s the only way anyone is permitted to leave The Hoop, and how each of the main characters finds purpose. As a millennial, this drive Halo possesses to find employment anywhere she can as she moves around speaks to me. Even if its employment that only pays for the gas it takes to get from one place to another. Nobody can live without earning a living, and as such I really appreciate how Moore uses a poor job market to influence Halo’s decisions, not to mention the multiple wars that occur simultaneously in Halo’s world.
Brought to American shores through UK publisher Rebellion (known for publishing 2000 AD in the UK), Halo Jones crossed the Atlantic on the backs of Alan Moore and Ian Gibson, two very recognizable names in the US. It’s a fun read about a dynamo lady’s life and times. Ian Gibson’s art shows its age, but it is an appropriate look for a book with a cartoony cast coping with intense situations. The juxtaposition works out quite satisfyingly for an afternoon of escapism.