Saturday, March 23, 2013

More Moore part 13: The Ballad of Halo Jones Book I

The Ballad of Halo Jones Book I (1984)

Like the previous year's "Skizz", The Ballad of Halo Jones was brought to us from the pages of boy's sci-fi mag 2000 AD, where Moore had previously given us 1- and 2-page 'future shocks' by the truckload. Also like "Skizz", Halo Jones was nothing at all like the publication's usual offerings; while both works have a definite sci-fi flavor to it, they examine concepts far beyond what you would get from other 2000 AD works like "Judge Dredd" and "Meltdown Man". And like "Skizz", Halo Jones is nowhere near Moore's best work, but it has a certain ramshackle charm that makes it work, at least as far as Book I is concerned.

The Ballad of Halo Jones Book I follows the life and times of Halo Jones, teen girl of the 50th century, as she and her friend Rodice set out for the mall with their robot dog companion. The first of the problems with the book crop up rather quickly: maybe I'm just an old curmudgeon but the girls Clockwork Orange-esque slang is grating from their very first appearance, spouting off lines like "Oobliay to Clara Pandy! The Rumble-Jacks'll be here for a Hoop-Scoop any minute now..." for page after page after page. The plot is mostly a comedy of errors, with Halo and Rodice missing the tram back home by mere minutes (the first time it's ever been early, of course) as having to sleep on the streets with a chatty alien hobo before they can make it back home. Though the slang never goes away, it does become more tolerable as the book goes on, simply because the situations get more interesting, or at least more entertaining: Rodice accidentally gasses herself with a 'zenade' which causes her personality to temporarily shift to that of a tripped out hippie, leading to probably the funniest lines in the entire book, at least for someone who grew up within reach of Santa Cruz, California's hippie Mecca:

"Beautiful, because Halo, you see, the inside IS the outside. It's so obvious!"

The book also does a fairly deft job at mixing comedy with tragedy, similarly to Terry Gilliam's own future-fable Brazil, when Halo and Rodice finally make it home to find Halo's roomie/mother-figure Brinna murdered by nihilistic street gang the Different Drums. Halo resolves to leave town, finds a stewardess job on luxury spaceliner the Clara Pandy, and takes off for parts unknown as Book I closes.

The story is almost painfully slight after Swamp Thing, but it's also written for an entirely different audience, so I'm trying to judge it on its own terms. And on its own terms it's...alright. Not Bad. Like "Skizz", Halo Jones is an attempt to ground a sci-fi story by giving it a familiar setting: really if we cut out the robodogs and the aliens and the 50th century lingo, Halo Jones is the story of a young woman growing up, leaving home, and staking out on her own for the first time. The novel is well-loved by those who dig a little deeper in Moore's catalog because Halo is relatable, she's an everywoman and we can all see ourselves in her situation. That said...ehh. It's a unique story, especially in the hyper-macho pages of 2000 AD, but it's really not anything special, especially not compared to what Moore's done before, and certainly not compared to what he'll do soon after. The dialogue and characters were better in "Skizz", tighter and more interesting, the first few chapters of Halo Jones are monotonous and made me fear for having to slog through the rest of it. Ian Gibson's art is alright, when he pencils large panoramas stuffed with people it looks great, but his faces only have a couple different expressions, and Halo and Rodice get stuck with 'pouty' for about 3/4 of the book. The Ballad of Halo Jones Book I is a decent start, and it did pick up enugh at the end to make me curious as to what Halo will get into next, but in the end the story is merely average, much like its protagonist.


Best quote: "You know what it is with you, Toby? You know why your personality's so hostile and twisted? It's because you've got cybernetic rabies..."


Up next: To infinity and further in The Ballad of Halo Jones Book II

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