Sunday, August 9, 2009

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.

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