Sunday, August 9, 2009

Halo Graphic Novel Review (Part 7)

The following article was written for Halopedia:

Greetings, Halopedians! I’m back with the final part of my series of articles reviewing the Halo Graphic Novel. If you’ve missed the other parts, you can find them here, here, here, here, here, and here. The stories have ended, and so has the collection of gallery art. Now I will be covering the series of notes Bungie put in the back of the book in a section called Bungie’s Bullshit Bluster. Think they’ve got a thing for alliteration?

BBB starts off with a short comic strip called Shore Leave: Master Chief on Holiday, by Paul Russel. This one is way too short to be put with the stories, consisting of only six panels less than an inch tall. The storyline is far from serious and is instead more like a comic strip in a newspaper. Master Chief is first seen wearing a robe and holding a cup of coffee, while still wearing his helmet of course. His day starts off bad when a thrown newspaper thwacks him in the head. He is then seen in full MJOLNIR armor driving a civilian Hog, but stuck in traffic. At the grocery store, he accidentally crushes a cantaloupe by squeezing too hard. As he tries to leave the store, his purchases fall out of the bottom of the bag and spill across the ground. Then an old woman yells at him because he parked the Hog with one wheel on her car. Finally, we see a dorky-looking Johnson calling to say, “So, Buckethead, ya ready to go to work?” The Chief says, “Yeah.” It’s cute.

Below Shore Leave, there’s a picture of an Etch A Sketch. On the Etch A Sketch is a drawing of the Master Chief looking down at a small hologram of Cortana. Master Chief is shown with his hand stretched out, and Cortana has her head in her hands. Above them are strange but detailed protrusions I’m not sure about. Parts of an activated Control Room, maybe? The thing was made by Marty O’Donnell, and it’s pretty nifty-looking. I have some doubts about its authenticity as an Etch A Sketch drawing, though, as I don’t think it lets you make lines not connected to anything as are parts of Cortana. Nice drawing, though.

And just to keep you from thinking Bungie’s Bullshit Bluster isn’t good evidence of their affection toward alliterations, they included the header, “A Cataclysmic Clamoring of Cromulent Content for Cool Cats and Comic Connoisseurs!” Yeah, that’s Bungie humor, alright. Eat your heart out, Jeff Lindsay.

The main part of the page is a message from “Captain Montague Meriwether Bungie”. It describes how comic were originally thought of as something only for kids until Stan Lee and other visionaries changed that image by making graphic novels more mainstream. There’s a bit about pop artist Roy Lichtenstein drawing his inspiration from comic books. The message concludes with Bungie giving their thanks and appreciation to the people who advanced graphic novels and to those who worked on the HGN. To the side of the message is the popped Flood from Geoff Darrow’s piece.

The rest of the page is made up of little tidbits offering information about parts of the HGN. The first describes how Lorraine McLees came up with the idea to do the HGN and used her contacts to get it made; the second describes how Marty O’Donnell got his first Etch A Sketch; the third notes that the HGN is not Bungie’s first graphic novel and is instead their sixth, the others being for their games Myth and Oni; the fourth says that Geoff Darrow was one of the concept designers for The Matrix; the fifth describes how well known and respected is Jean “Moebius” Giraud, who made the surreal Second Sunrise Over New Mombasa story, and that he is easily the oldest artist to work on the HGN; and the fifth describes how Simon Bisley, the artist of Last Voyage of the Infinite Succor, got his start as a graphic novel artist.

After the tidbits is a collection of letters made by fans. Bungie notes that they collected the letters through trickery and that the fans didn’t know what the letters were for other than the general idea of giving input about the possibility of a Halo graphic novel. The first letter, by Usul, suggests three things: that Halo in comic book form has many selling points, but that Master Chief should not be drawn without his helmet; exploring the Covenant with storylines such as the original Prophet-Elite war, the conquering of other species, or any number of possibilities; exploring UNSC politics with suggested storylines as UNSC having to battle Covenant without the Chief, or following an AI serving ONI. Bungie responds to the letter saying that number three is obviously in the HGN and that they seriously considered an AI storyline. “And lord knows our artists enjoy drawing pseudo-naked female holograms.”

The second letter, by Roger Wilco, says that a polished in-depth graphic novel would be good, especially one that focuses on characters other than the Master Chief, such as soldiers on both sides, scientists, civilians, and their roles in the conflict. He goes on to suggest that the HGN should have artists Geoff Darrow, Shirow, Katsuhiro Otomo, Simon Bisley, and Craig Mullins. Bungie responds asking if Roger has been hiding in their soda machine for the past year.

The third letter, by Unperson, suggests that Sergeant Johnson would make a good subject for a Halo graphic novel story, specifically one that describes how he made it off Halo. The author then says that it shouldn’t look like manga because manga characters don’t usually look very dark or intimidating, and Johnson should. Bungie responds to say that Nihei did his best to make Breaking Quarantine not look too manga-ish.

The fourth letter, by Mintz, suggests a mix of Spartan action and 2552 politics. Bungie responds with a “Cough – Moebius – cough!”

The fifth letter, by Miguel Chavez, points out that the art of a graphical novel can surpass that of a film. No actors need to be hired to be the face behind the helmet, the required budget is significantly less because of no need for special effects and such, and the storyline can be preserved to a greater degree. All that is needed is the right person who can write a good storyline and plot the pages. Bungie responds that they agree and that was the process in a nutshell.

Finally, the sixth letter, by Dennis, describes how Bungie created such a rich universe for Halo. As a person who grew up with comics, Dennis says that he can easily see the Halo franchise entering the graphic novel market. Bungie replies, “Hope you enjoyed it, Dennis. We certainly did.”

Below the letters are images of two of Bungie’s previous graphic novels alongside a sketch. The first cover is of Oni issue #0 and depicts player character Konoko falling backwards while firing a gun. The second cover is of Tales from Myth: The Fallen Lords and depicts a large ogre kind of creature (I don’t know Myth) reaching for a little gnome guy. Beside the covers is a sketch of a UNSC locker room. One of the Marines has a pinup of Cortana on his door. The Master Chief comes at him angrily while other Marines try to hold him back. The Marine with the pinup looks defensive and says, “What’s your problem, man??!!” A humorous take on Cortana’s being seen as a sex symbol.

And that’s the end.

The end.

The end.

While not perfect, the Halo Graphic Novel is an enjoyable read with a lot of cool content. My main complaint is the art. Last Voyage has busy fight scenes that are hard to understand, Armor Testing ripped part of the art from Halo 2, and Second Sunrise is… well… Rabbit! To be more specific, the artist tries too hard to be creative and what results is something only barely recognizable as Halo. The one story I’m really satisfied with is Breaking Quarantine, which is just a cool action scene with intense “masculine” art that is easy to follow and to get into. The gallery art contains many interesting pieces, and I like seeing all the different takes on Halo. Finally, Bungie concludes with their Bullshit Bluster, which adds interesting tidbits about the development of the HGN as well as some extra art snuck in. All in all, the HGN is a good-quality book.

"The Halo Graphic Novel is a masterful tribute to the art form of the comic book and a stunning collectible in its own right."

—Marvel, on the dust jacket blurb

Halo Graphic Novel Review (Part 6)

The following article was written for Halopedia:

La, la, la, di… da, da, da, dum… Oh, hello! Wonderful news: my series of articles reviewing the Halo Graphic Novel is almost complete.



Yes… Isn’t it? If you have missed the previous articles in this series, you can access them here, here, here, here, and here. No promises, but initial estimates indicate that this series will be coming to a conclusion in just a few more days. As for today, I will be covering the remaining selection of gallery art. That will leave only “Bungie’s Bullshit Bluster”, which can be covered in a seventh article. Ah, I am a genius. Hee, hee, hee!

Anyway, the twelfth artwork in the gallery is by Sterling Hundley. It depicts the Master Chief wading through water in which float Flood corpses, along with many expended shotgun shells. There is a definite dark and gloomy feel to this piece. While its style is a bit too soft for my tastes, I can easily see this as a scene during the level Keyes from Halo: Combat Evolved.

The thirteenth artwork, by George Pratt, depicts the Master Chief wielding a Covenant particle beam rifle. He stands on a rocky ledge with his back up against a rock wall, and may have just come through a deep crevice that splits the rock. Three plasma grenades lie at his feet, hinting of a Kig-yar opponent recently dispatched. The artwork contains a heavy amount of the color blue and has visible brush strokes. It is not to my preference, but it isn’t too bad either.

The fourteenth artwork, by Juan Ramirez, is another example of what I see as the traditional American graphic novel artistic style (the first being Geoff Darrow’s piece). It is an involved piece, depicting three Marines badly attempting to fight an attacking Jiralhanae and an Unggoy. One Marine is bumped by the Unggoy just as he fires his battle rifle at the Jiralhanae and misses his arm, cocked back to deliver a powerful blow of the grenade launcher bayonet. The Jiralhanae is roaring aggressively and with his bare hand he has swiped aside a second Marine, and appears to be preparing to hack apart a third Marine, who looks toward the viewer with his mouth open in shock. Even the Unggoy looks sinister. I think this is a high-quality work and serves to illustrate how helpless humans really are against the alien foes. (The weird part of my brain notes that the third Marine, with his worn face and stream of blood trickling out of his nose, looks like a perverted old man from an anime. Perhaps the look of shock is because he just witnessed Naruto’s sexy no jutsu…)

The fifteenth artwork, by Rick Berry, depicts a Sangheili near some kind of technology at the edge of a construction hanging over a hazy atmosphere. The main issue with this work is that it’s too dark for me to really understand what I’m looking at. Is he sitting on a Ghost? Is that supposed to be in Threshold? I don’t know! The artist uses a semi-abstract style with visible brush strokes that convey the vague idea, but it’s all just too dark for me to make sense of it. Heavily brightening it in Photoshop does little to reveal the image except to confirm that part of the image is the Sangheili’s outstretched hand and not part of the building. Suffice it to say this is not my favorite image.

The sixteenth artwork is by Frankie O’Connor and depicts his favorite subject: the Mister Chief. While Mister Chief images tend to be made specifically with as little work put into them as possible, this one at least seems like it took a bit of effort. It is made in parody of the famous M. C. Escher painting Hand with Globe. Although it is not exactly an interpretation of Halo, it is a bonus to the Halo community. Still not really my favorite, though. I would prefer it if the space was used for something more relevant to the Halo story.

The seventeenth artwork, by Frank Capezutto, is a fantastic work depicting three Marines engaged in battle with off-frame Covenant. The setting is in a human industrial facility, which is brightly lit with what looks like sunlight. In the foreground are two Marines narrowly dodging a thrown plasma grenade. The one nearest the viewer is shown with his mouth open partway through a scream. The facial features are incredibly detailed, and I could see this as a serious depiction of war in our real world was there no plasma visible. It’s also nice to see a female Marine just as a Marine who is female. Then, of course, there’s the helmet identifying the closest Marine as an L. Jenkins, which evokes the Internet viral video starring Leeroy Jenkins. With his mouth open in a scream, one can easily imagine him screaming his name as does his namesake. This is a fun in-joke included in an already impressive artwork, and this is one of my favorites in the collection.

The eighteenth artwork, by Robert McLees (husband of previously mentioned Lorraine McLees), is one of the most intriguing images in the collection. Page 122 depicts various items that seem to be spread out on someone’s table. In the background is a map marked with what would seem from context to be information for a UNSC assassination mission. Sitting on the map is a chat transcript that looks like the result of two ONI spooks hanging out in IRC and contains both serious discussion and plain silliness (who knew there were RPGs with Elf Wizards in 2552?). Also present is a record of command lines (I thought those were obsolete?). Then we have photographs showing a UNSC assassination mission with satellite images of a black Marine firing a sniper rifle and a guy exploding in a cloud of blood. Further items would suggest that it was a rebel leader who was killed.

The overall collection of items seems to imply that Sergeant Johnson is a Spartan-I who assassinated the rebel, and that the information revealed in Halo: First Strike about how he supposedly was released by the Flood was a hoax to cover up the fact that he used his Spartan abilities to escape them. Not only is this a fascinating insight into Johnson’s past, it preserves the canonicity of both the events in Halo: First Strike and the Breaking Quarantine retcon. John’s character development in which he chooses not to sign Johnson’s death warrant for a remote chance of the UNSC learning something useful about the Flood remains canon in the Halo universe. Also interesting is a mention of Herzog and Standish, characters from the previously non-canon I Love Bees. As an ILB fan, I was delighted to see it be embraced as canon, at least a little bit.

The nineteenth artwork is credited to Sheik Wang. A side note here: I recognized that as Bungie artist Shi Kai Wang. I thought Sheik was just his username, not his pseudonym. Anyway, his artwork depicts the Prophet of Truth on his throne, holding his head in one hand, the other loosely holding his crown. What’s interesting about this image is that it is entirely in black and white, no grey, not even the newspaper illusion of grey. The artist employs black to function as shadow, giving the work a very stark and grim look. Truth, we can tell, is in some great distress. Whatever caused it is unknown and only this small glimpse of the Prophet and his pain is revealed to us. A brilliant work, I’d say.

The twentieth artwork, by Eddie Smith, depicts a battle-rifle-wielding Master Chief about to pass under a small archway and into a debris-strewn interior. The work places the viewer inside with a view of the Chief about to come in. The sunlight glaringly illuminates part of the Chief and his pathway, the Spartan’s body creating streams of shadow into the interior. I can imagine him in Old Mombasa. The work is very realistic, yet is still obviously a painting with its brush strokes visible. While I can appreciate it as a work that had a lot of effort put into it, its colors are a little too dull for my tastes.

The twenty-first artwork, by Chris Barrett (after whom Tterrab Industries was named), is a much more imaginative (read: strange) piece than the others. It depicts a blue Sangheili among Covenant or Forerunner architecture and loosely holding a plasma rifle. It is intentionally very flat, with really no depth at all. I believe the artist was going for the look of something drawn on stone like a painting of ancient Greece. The architecture is drawn lightly on the background, and interestingly enough includes the cobra from the red team’s flag in multiplayer. This is creative, but not really to my tastes.

Finally, we have the twenty-second and last artwork, by Craig Mullins. This is another very realistic piece that is still obviously a painting. It depicts the Master Chief with his battle rifle held down. It is set in an area with tropical-looking trees with fronds, the Chief himself standing on dirt with fronds visible behind his head. The Chief looks very gritty and battle-worn, and the colors are predominantly pink and orange as if in early morning. This is a well-done piece, but it’s not something I’d choose to look at for an extended period of time.

Well, Halopedians, that’s it for now. See you next time for the last installment of this review, same Halo time… You know the drill.

"WTF!?! Lolz!!!!one! Wise in the ways of MAGICK?!?! Sorcerer Kings?2?!?!! Roflmao!!!!!!eleven!!"

Echo23023, of page 122

Halo Graphic Novel Review (Part 5)

The following article was written for Halopedia:

Helloooo, nerds! This is your fellow nerd Dragonclaws bringing you the fifth article in my series reviewing the Halo Graphic Novel. You can check out my previous articles in the series here, here, here, and here. Today, I will be reviewing a section of the gallery art, past the stories. Specifically, pages 102-114.

The first artwork is by Lorraine McLees. It is a two-page image depicting an arrangement of aspects of the UNSC: soldiers, vehicles, weapons, and ammo. In the foreground is a spread of weapons and ammo arranged in a fan-shape, with the Master Chief sitting on a SPNKr ammo box. Just behind him are two Warthogs, one regular and one Gauss Hog, the much larger Pelican some distance behind them. A unit of ODSTs is standing in tiered formation in front of the Pelican. I think the artwork is a cool depiction of the standard array of aspects of the UNSC the player regularly deals with in the games.

The second artwork, by Doug Alexander, is a depiction of Maria-062. While in Armor Testing we only saw her head emerging from MJOLNIR armor, this image shows her in casual military dress – armored cargo pants and a tank top emblazoned with “UNSC”. In her hands she holds a flamethrower, something she looks prepared to use against a wave of Flood. Beside her stands a Spartan in MJOLNIR armor with a shotgun. I’m not sure if the Spartan is supposed to be someone else like the Chief or Maria herself, representing the two parts of her life – Maria the Spartan and Maria the family woman, both prepared to defend her people. Either way, it is an interesting reappearance of this new character.

The third artwork, by John Van Fleet, is a computer-assisted rendering of the Master Chief fighting Flood in a UNSC environment. He is pictured in mid-jump, firing a flurry of bullets from dual-wielded SMGs at an incoming swarm of Infection Forms. The surroundings are dark and industrial with Flood biomass built up on the far wall. This image is not my favorite. While I can appreciate the work that must have gone into the creation of this image, the characters appear unrealistic. The illusion of depth is also somewhat imperfect in this art style, which makes some aspects of the image appear flat.

The fourth artwork, by Tom Doyle, depicts the Master Chief rescuing a young boy during a Covenant attack. The Chief stands in the foreground wielding a battle rifle and looking upward; the young boy supported by his left arm and held up by his shoulder. The boy himself is crying and clutching onto the Chief’s chest plate. Rubble and a dead Sangheili lie at the Chief’s feet, and the background shows a city under siege with a burning car, a smoking building, and a fleet of Covenant ships flying overhead. I really like this image because it shows what the UNSC is fighting to protect: people (no, not flip music). The Master Chief is portrayed here as a defender of the people, and I like that.

The fifth artwork, by Isaac Hannaford, depicts an ODST preparing to fight a roaring Jiralhanae. The ODST stands in the foreground, back to the viewer, while the Jiralhanae takes up most of the focus of the image, being more than twice the ODST’s height. With only a battle rifle to use against this hulking monstrosity, the ODST looks like he or she will be cleaved in half with one swipe of the grenade launcher bayonet. They appear to stand in a Forerunner building of some kind. This image is rendered in a nicely realistic style, bringing the Jiralhanae to life with organic animal characteristics and fluffy-looking fur. The composition is also good; the artist uses the jagged Forerunner wall to bring the viewer’s eyes to the Jiralhanae head, while a red glow from the next room illuminates the Jiralhanae’s form. The one complaint I have is that the mouth looks too narrow, making him look more like a bear than an ape. Otherwise, it’s a great image.

The sixth artwork, by Justin Sweet, depicts Tartarus on a rocky throne with the Fist of Rukt held loosely at his side. The great Jiralhanae looks very intimidating in this image, and the hazy sky with partially visible moon only enhances this effect. Looking at him, I am reminded of part of a song in The Lord of the Rings: “One for the dark lord on his dark throne / One ring to rule them all / One ring to find them / One ring to bring them all / And in the darkness bind them / In the land of Mordor where the shadows lie”. Tartarus very much fills the part of a dark lord in this image. My main reaction when I first saw this artwork was that it was cool but very non-canon. I’d seen High Charity, and it was purple and sleek. Having seen the Halo universe expanded since then, I now think it fits in with the concept of Jiralhanae and could see this set on their homeworld.

The seventh artwork, by Kent Williams, depicts the Master Chief fighting off the Gravemind. This is much more of an abstract piece. Only the Master Chief and tentacles he shoots are clearly defined. The rest of the artwork is made up of patches of color without clear meaning. The Chief stands on a clump of tentacles that reach for him, while a second group of tentacles come at him from above. The Chief, dual-wielding SMGs, fires simultaneously up at the tentacles above his head and down at the ones at his feet. This pose stretches him into an angular form that connects the forms at the top and the bottom of the plane. It’s a nice piece, all and all, but it’s a little too simplistic for my tastes.

The eighth artwork, by Geoff Darrow, depicts Master Chief’s struggle with the fast-breeding Flood. Another two-page image, it shows the Chief standing beside a killed Infection Form while dual-wielding SMGs. The killed enemy seems like a futile gesture, though, as dozens of Infection Forms have swarmed around him and have him surrounded. The art style seems to me to be more in line with what is traditionally assumed to be the art style of the American graphic novel, slightly cartoonish but with detail and with a serious look. It is simple in concept but I find it worth an amused chuckle.

The ninth artwork is by Tsutomu Nihei, who did the story Breaking Quarantine. It depicts a Sangheili Combat Form in all its grotesque detail as it roars toward the viewer. This is an intense image and obviously very high-quality. I consider this image proof that Nihei would have done The Last Voyage of the Infinite Succor better than Simon Bisley. This image is beautiful and in my opinion it depicts the pure essence of the subject. Yes, Nihei could have brilliant fight scenes in Last Voyage, I am sure…

The tenth artwork, by Scott Fischer, is a basic portrait style piece with some abstract elements. It depicts the Master Chief and Cortana in a realistic style. Cortana is in the foreground, her holographic body rendered anatomically correct with nipples and a belly button. I find it notable that the symbols going through her hologram appear to be binary digits, while in the game the symbols are illegible. Behind Cortana, the Chief stands in a wide stance, a shotgun held so that it passes just over her head. All other aspects of the artwork are abstract shapes. On the one hand, it is cool how realistic they appear – Cortana’s light reflecting off of the shotgun is a nice touch. However, it seems like Cortana is made to have excessive sex appeal here, and sexual objectification is not something I can get behind.

The eleventh artwork, by Greg Staples, is a creative depiction of Master Chief battling Covenant. Man, there is a lot going on here! And unlike the poor art of Last Voyage I can still tell what’s going on. The Master Chief stands on a mountainside on an alien moon. He fires a stream of bullets from his assault rifle into a hoard of Unggoy. No Sangheili is explicitly featured, although two plasma rifles are thrust forward from the edges of the plane, suggesting the image is from the point of view of a Sangheili. Above the Chief, Banshees fire down on him. In the background is an Earth-like planet with a UNSC-Covenant naval engagement between the planet and the moon. The composition is great and the artistic style isn’t weird. In my opinion, this is a fantastic image.

Well, that’s enough for one article, I should say. Stay tuned for the next article in my series, which will cover more gallery art images. Until next time, Halopedians, may the force be with you.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Halo Graphic Novel Review (Part 4)

The following was written for Halopedia:

Well, Halopedians, here I am with the fourth article in my series reviewing the Halo Graphic Novel. If you’ve missed the previous articles, you can find them here, here, and here. Today, I will be reviewing the fourth story: Second Sunrise Over New Mombasa, by Brett Lewis and Jean “Moebius” Giraud.

Second Sunrise is a very unique Halo story. The artist takes extreme liberties with the art style, in both coloration and physical form. The colors are all very bright and predominantly made up of orange and blue. Colors are also not static and may change from panel to panel, which are themselves jaggedly segmented. I believe the protagonist’s race is supposed to be black, but he is mostly drawn in a blue-grey color.

More than color, the entities within this world are transformed from physical accuracy to more of a surreal representation. An example is of a guy who chats to the protagonist on a train. He is boiled down to the basic concept of “annoying white guy” and looks oddly cartoonish, as though he wandered off the set of Family Guy. Great creative liberties are also taken with the Covenant, who appear more like classic science-fiction caricatures than accurate depictions of Halo aliens.

The Scarab looks more like an orange tripod from The War of the Worlds with insectoid features. A Covenant ship looks like a Klingon Bird of Prey from Star Trek. Sangheili wear bulky and spiky armor with colors of blue, orange, and green. A Sangheili seen without his helmet has pale pink skin. The weapons they carry are pretty much made-up, except for a bright pink energy sword. The other species aren’t seen at all.

Strangest of all, though, is a man standing in a balcony, watching the invading Covenant’s orbital insertion. He’s a fat man in a suit, looking up in confusion, with a question mark over his head. His head looks like that of a rabbit. There is no explanation offered for this strange guy.

I read this graphic novel shortly after reading Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge. It’s a science-fiction novel that involves this troublemaking hacker who uses an avatar of an anthropomorphic rabbit. So, when I see the rabbit guy in Second Sunrise, I can’t help but think of that character.

Besides the art style, which can be a bit disconcerting, Second Sunrise is an intriguing story that reveals a lot about the civilian culture of Mombasa. Until Second Sunrise, the only look at the civilians that we had was the audio drama of I Love Bees, and it’s hard to say what elements of that are canon. This story brings us knowledge of civilian ideology, fashion, and class differences.

The plot involves a civilian photographer (who seems more like a Photoshopper) who moved to Mombasa for business. While he tells people his employers are a car company, he secretly works for ONI Section Two. ONI provides him with battlefield scenes, which he alters to make friendly enough for use as propaganda to make the civilians think that the UNSC is winning the war.

He lives in New Mombasa, the rich skyscraper-filled side of the city, but works in the ghetto of Old Mombasa. He takes the train across every day, and is exposed to his propaganda playing over TV screens. The civilian commuters have a variety of opinions regarding the Covenant war based on this misinformation: that the war is going smoothly, that the UNSC could annihilate them but are too concerned with their rights to do so, even that the UNSC are the aggressors and want to conquer Covenant planets.

One day in Old Mombasa, he stops to examine the wares of a local street vendor. The street vendor is depicted as extremely craggy and impoverished. His clothes are dirty and he’s got plumber’s crack. Clearly he is of the lower class.

The photographer is attracted to a print image, an obsolete medium by 2552, which depicts tribal Africans. He shares some words with the salesman, when the whole street is distracted by streaking meteors – Covenant orbital insertion. Then the rabbit guy shows up… Whatever.

The Covenant invade Mombasa. They start blowing stuff up, including the train the photographer was on. He wakes up in a hospital; his first thought that no one’s censoring the media coverage. In his hand, he still clutches the print image. It is crinkled and missing a few pieces. He drops it and follows out a Marine officer calling for anyone able to walk.

Meanwhile, the civilians attempt to defend their city. A bunch of them raid a gun store and try to fight off the Covenant. The Covenant arrive in much greater force, however, and they don’t stand a chance.

The photographer and a bunch of Marines capture speech of a green Sangheili (I know, just go with it) on the photographer’s laptop. A translation program reveals the alien speech to say, “We need to clear this area before we can secure access to the Ark.”

They know that this bit of intel is vital, but the Covenant are blocking communications. So, they send the photographer to get the laptop out of the city. He runs to the docks, which are a madhouse of scared people trying to evacuate. Unwilling to take the place of a little girl on the last boat, he gives the laptop to her with the hope that she could deliver it to ONI outside the city. He returns to the ONI headquarters in Old Mombasa and watches his recordings while waiting for death. Meanwhile, a Sangheili boot treads on the print image.

For only fourteen pages, Second Sunrise is a very engaging story filled with intriguing detail. The art is strange, but the illustrations do reveal some interesting detail. We learn that the trains contain TV screens that report news and propaganda. We see the civilians with a wide variety of hair and clothing styles, some familiar and others extrapolations on trends. Given the weirdness of the art, the exact state of canon in regard to these fashion styles is unclear, but the detail is interesting all the same.

The part of the story about the Ark was a tantalizing hint. This was way before Halo 3, and all we knew about the Ark was what was revealed in Halo 2. The Arbiter asked Spark where the Ark was and instead of hearing his answer, we cut to Earth. Tricky Bungie seemed to be implying that the Ark was on Earth, and the bit in Second Sunrise seemed to confirm this and also say that it was near Mombasa. This affected interpretation of the Halo 3 announcement trailer, which depicted the activation of the portal to the Ark. Because of Bungie’s sneaky misdirection it appeared that the portal was actually the Ark itself (Cortana’s “This is the way the world ends” didn’t help).

So, final thoughts on Second Sunrise Over New Mombasa: Strange art style; intriguing storyline; interesting visuals; nice going with the thematic effect of seeing the print image in different conditions; would be more entertaining in a more realistic art style like that of Nihei’s; cool of the photographer to sacrifice his own life to keep the kid alive. Stay tuned for the next article in this series, in which I review individual pieces of gallery art.