Monday, July 13, 2009

Halo Graphic Novel Review (Part 3)

This article was written for Halopedia:

Good morning, Halopedia! And here I am, back with the third article in my series reviewing the Halo Graphic Novel. If you have missed my previous articles, you can check them out here and here. Today, I will be reviewing my favorite story in the HGN: Breaking Quarantine by Tsutomu Nihei.

After our palates were cleansed with the light-hearted Armor Testing, we are treated to another dark and action-filled battle with the Flood. Halo: First Strike author Eric Nylund had previously described Johnson’s escape from the Flood as because of radiation poisoning that made him incompatible with the Flood infection and they had released him, but that wasn’t kosher with the Bungie team. They wanted to retell the story, and got Japanese graphic novelist Tsutomu Nihei to illustrate Johnson’s story of escape.

The location is very familiar to us Halo fans. It is set in the Flood containment facility we entered in the level 343 Guilty Spark in Halo: Combat Evolved. Master Chief viewed helmet camera footage of Johnson’s unit being attacked by the Flood. The recording’s termination left implied that his whole team had been massacred. Johnson did survive, obviously, and his route of escape is made consistent with the layout of the facility we know from the game.

Breaking Quarantine is essentially the human parallel to The Last Voyage of the Infinite Succor. Breaking Quarantine, however, manages to avoid the pitfall that Last Voyage fell into in where it had so much busy detail that panels were distracting and hard to follow. Breaking Quarantine has a lot of detail, but it finds the balance that Last Voyage did not and accomplishes some really beautiful art.

The story is devoid of dialog. Only pure actions take place. There are, however, sound effects written in Japanese katakana. They’re a little weird to get used to, but a quick Google search shows the sounds they represent and it’s really just meaningless sound effects anyway.

The artistic style is dark and edgy. Nihei creates intense imagery of the sort traditionally associated with masculinity. Johnson forcefully rips into Flood with a spray of bullets. He blocks a tentacle whip and is thrown across the room by the sheer strength of the Combat Form, but he gets up and keeps moving. There is tension as he runs out of ammo for his assault rifle! He switches to his pistol and manages to take out the Combat Form, despite the shotgun wielded by his enemy.

He runs across a light bridge, but the Flood deactivate it when he’s only two thirds of the way across and he makes a death defying leap to the other side. Only a room away from the lift, he tosses a grenade over his shoulder to take out the Flood chasing him. It clicks to the floor.

Blam! The Flood are incinerated in an explosive blast that Johnson himself barely escapes. He walks calmly to the lift and rides it to the top. He is the sole survivor of his unit. Looking grim, he exits the facility.

Breaking Quarantine made Johnson my favorite Halo character, above even the Master Chief. Johnson became a very cool action hero with this story. Master Chief might have his MJOLNIR armor, but the suit takes away from his human features and he becomes hard to care about as a character. You can see Johnson’s face here; see his weariness, his shock, his anger. He is a more defined character without the godly strength awarded by technology and is cooler as a result.

So, final thoughts on Breaking Quarantine: Johnson is awesome; art is cool; fight scenes intense and easy to follow; Johnson is awesome; and let’s not forget: Johnson is awesome. Stay tuned for the next review on Second Sunrise Over New Mombasa, where the colors are bonkers and a man looks like a rabbit. This should be interesting.

"The Brutes have our scent."


"Then they must love the smell of badass."


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