The Ballad of Halo Jones is often heralded as a revolution in comics. Originally published in sci-fi anthology comic 2000AD, alongside Judge Dredd, Strontium Dog and Rogue Trooper it’s an undeniably different beast. However, like Skizz, Alan Moore’s other 2000AD strip published at a similar time, it’s importance, in my opinion at least, is diluted by the strength of Moore’s later work.
Halo Jones is an average young woman from the future. Trapped in a vast habitat that people never leave, growing increasingly dissatisfied with her humdrum of existence, she’s crippled by ennui and needs to get out. A disastrous and dangerous shopping trip and the senseless murder of a friend cements her disaffected relationship with her surroundings and leaves her seeking an escape.
There are some classic Moore hallmarks here. His world building is immense and convincing, with everything seemingly mapped out to fill in the background, from TV shows to labour politics. There’s a lexicon of future jargon thrown into the dialogue, which might sound trite coming from a writer less adept at this sort of thing, but Moore uses it cleverly, just enough to give the background more depth.
Ian Gibson’s seemingly effortless ability to further flesh out Moore’s vision with otherworldly fashion, haircuts and high-tech backdrops just builds on the comic, making it a coherent and compelling place.
This is the first time I’ve seen this book in colour and it looks great. The muted tones are a step on from the colouring techniques that would have been available when it was first published but they still have a retro feel, with a limited palette, like something from the nineties. It suits the art well and adds a little something extra to this latest edition.
So what’s not to like? Well, Halo Jones is famous for being the 2000AD strip in which nothing happens, and while this is arguably a tad unfair and things do happen, they’re largely off stage. The impact of events jolts Jones into action but she makes few decisions for herself, letting waves of externally-generated momentum carry her through her life.
Moore is sharpening his tools here, but hasn’t yet honed his craft to the level that we see in classics like V for Vendetta and Watchmen. These rich characters and backgrounds will go on to inform his greater work, but Halo Jones feels like a character in a setting looking for a plot. In this first volume, that certainly doesn’t turn up.