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

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