Halo: Escalation #1

3.66 Overall Score
Art: 5/10
Dialogue: 3/10
Story: 3/10

This comic continues, what is a pretty expansive canon of Halo lore that has cropped up in the last decade, in the form of novels and comics.

Ultimately, Halo: Escalation seems to be a book that will appeal to only the most dedicated fan.

Halo: Escalation #1
Chris Schlerf, Sergio Arino, Juan Castro
Dark Horse Comics
2014

Here’s my CV as far as the Halo franchise goes: loved the original Halo (I was like Annie Oakley with that M6D pistol), bought Halo 2 the day it came out, played most of Halo 3, watched a friend play Halo: Reach once in college and kind of enjoyed Halo 4. Halo: Escalation (by writer Chris Schlerf, pencils by Sergio Arino, inks by Juan Castro and colors by Michael Atiyeh) the newest series from Dark Horse, dives deeper into the world established thirteen years ago in the original Halo. Halo: Escalation is a book that resembles the Halo world of my youth, but is certainly not for me. If it has a target audience, it’s hardcore Halo fans, but I feel safe in assuming that even the most forward Halo scholars will finish Issue 1 of Halo:Escalation feeling a little cold.

This comic continues, what is a pretty expansive canon of Halo lore that has cropped up in the last decade, in the form of novels and comics. Ostensibly, Halo: Escalation follows Commander Sarah Palmer, a soldier on the UNSC Infinity, the ship charged with defending Earth from Jul Mdama, a rogue soldier of the feared Covenant, hell-bent on destruction. If that sounded like I came up with a succinct description for this Issue, I did not; all of that information is in an extended prologue before the comic even begins. There’s an immediate download of exposition that will alienate non-Halo folks and confuse the casual fan (such as myself). When the comic does begin, Commander Sarah Palmer is on some snow planet fighting a pretty rad-looking armored alien. I was digging the first few pages, until it’s revealed to be nothing more than a training simulation. From then on, most of the issue deals with politics between the humans and their not-so-friendly counterparts, where the humans are hoping to broker some sort of deal while fending off future attacks from the dreaded Jul Mdama. Even for intense fans of the Halo series, there is such an immense deposit of information it makes this a hard to navigate first issue.

Even more confusing, the comic uses terms, not from the world of Halo, but from the world of playing Halo games. For instance, when suggesting a training module to her cohort, Sarah suggests “capture the flag”, one of the many multiplayer modes from the games. And later, one of the characters refers to a mission as a “campaign”. Halo: Escalation exists in a strange world where both the Halo universe and the Halo games exist in tandem. It’s quite strange.

The artwork in the book is just fine; nothing more or less. There is nothing offensive to the eye, but there is also nothing that makes up for the dull nature of the rest of the comic. Artist Chris Schlerf’s human characters aren’t that compelling, though he does excel a bit when it comes to dreaming up a funky alien. The colors are simultaneously homogenous and incongruous, but neither in a way that is that appealing. Some pages will be in a pale blue pallet and others are a smattering of brightly colored ships and explosions. Like I said, the art isn’t particularly bad, it’s just there.

Ultimately, Halo: Escalation seems to be a book that will appeal to only the most dedicated fan. If you’ve read the novels, the comics, played all the games on Legendary and memorized the canon, there might be something here for you. But for a casual fan, it’s a universe that is wholly unrecognizable from the Halo world I grew up with. If you’re totally fresh to Halo, it may as well be written in Portuguese.

 

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Craig Schroeder
Author: Craig Schroeder View all posts by
I am a graduate of Florida State University, studying Creative Writing and History. Right now I work a desk job but I dream all day of making a living writing comics. I formed an indie label based in Tallahassee called Gentleman Baby Comics and HIT! is our debut comic. I read a lot of comics. I watch a lot of movies. I drink too much soda. I love a great television show.

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