In Review: The Ballad of Halo Jones – Full Colour Omnibus Edition

The Ballad of Halo Jones: Full Colour Omnibus Edition

The Book: Halo Jones is bored. Trapped in The Hoop, a futuristic world where jobs are scarce and excitement non-existent, Halo sets out to see the galaxy any way she can and to rewrite her destiny. From drudge work on a glamorous cruise liner, to serving in a brutal war zone, Halo experiences love and loss and she grows up into the woman who will change the course of the galaxy’s history. 

Radical and revolutionary, Rebellion is proud to present Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta) and Ian Gibson’s (Star Wars: Boba Fett Adventures) ground-breaking feminist space opera and science fiction classic in a full colour omnibus for the first time. A cultural icon and a high mark for British science fiction, this timeless tale of one woman’s endurance amidst a sea of dead-end and deadly jobs remains one of Alan Moore’s most beloved sagas. Restored and lovingly coloured by Barbara Nosenzo, and featuring a new introduction and bonus content, The Ballad of Halo Jones remains essential reading.

Review by Luke Williams

From its reportedly muted reception from an audience of, mainly, teenage boys seeking their fix of one-liners and high octane action, to its now legendary status as one of the undisputed classics of 2000AD, “The Ballad of Halo Jones” is still, arguably, an odd fit for a comic resplendent with gun-toting, scowling males. The science fiction strip, by by Alan Moore and Ian Gibson, was a quieter, more considered strip than its contemporaries but certainly not without drama; just not of the nature the Prog’s readership was used to.

For those completely unfamiliar with the strip, “The Ballad of Halo Jones” follows the life Halo Jones from the age of 18, living on the Hoop, a huge housing facility that houses the unemployed / unemployable, floating and anchored of Manhattan in the 50th Century. She ages through the three books, leaving the Hoop, by means of a job as a hostess on an interplanetary cruise liner, before winding up as a soldier in a bloody and brutal war. Halo herself is nothing special, but she is our tour guide through this far future universe, taking us where life takes her.

The Ballad of Halo Jones: Full Colour Omnibus Edition

Despite being over thirty years old, the three books raise issues that were quite progressive for the mid-1980s, even for a “lefty liberal” comic like 2000AD. Although some topics are more complex and nuanced than are presented here, and it has certainly come in for some criticism for the portrayal of certain characters, it is quite remarkable that they were introduced at all during this period, in what was still essentially a comic for teenagers, despite its growing reputation for attracting an older readership. 

The relatively slow pace of Book One was supplanted by Book Two’s action-focussed set pieces, following a request from then editor Steve McManus or, as he puts it in the foreword to this collection: “A little less conversation and a little more action”. Book Three ramps up the despair and it is probably the most affecting of the books. Being a few episodes longer it allows interpersonal relationships between the characters to develop, and rivals Battle Picture Weekly’s “Charley’s War” for its portrayal of the horrors of all-out war, and its effects on combatants and non combatants alike.

The Ballad of Halo Jones: Full Colour Omnibus Edition
The Ballad of Halo Jones: Full Colour Omnibus Edition

It could have gone on beyond the three books, although each book can be read independently and is its own self-contained story but set in what would have been a much larger narrative. Largely, the plot threads had been tied up and the books collected here are no lesser for that. Thankfully, Rebellion have restrained from reviving and rebooting Halo Jones, as they have to varying degrees of success with other dormant characters. 

It’s incredibly well crafted and plotted, events in Book Three foreshadowed in Book One, and it’s clear Moore and Gibson had a long-term plan for the project.  

It’s also important to note that “The Ballad of Halo Jones” is as much Ian Gibson’s story as it is Alan Moore’s. Gibson’s delicate fluid lines amazing design work and believable environments are as important as the script from the legendary Mr. Moore, which, despite the dour sounding plot, is peppered with wry humour and humanity.

The Ballad of Halo Jones: Full Colour Omnibus Edition

Rebellion have taken the decision to colour the most recent editions of “The Ballad of Halo Jones”, and it’s understandable why the publisher has chosen to do this. Colour comics are reportedly an easier sell in the US, hence other coloured editions such as the Judge Dredd Essential Collection, colouring black and white Dredd strips. Unfortunately, for me, Barbara Nosenzo’s colouring is not sympathetic to Ian Gibson’s fine and flowery style. The colouring is unsubtle, occasionally lurid, overly vibrant and swamps the art. A more delicate application with a more sober palette would have been more appropriate. It’s particularly noticeable in Book Three, where the starkness of the black and white artwork complements the bleak plot.

The package is rounded out by a very Kieron Gillen introduction, by Kieron Gillen, and the notoriously verbose and intricate scripts from Alan Moore to Book Three episodes 9 and 10, all wrapped up in a hardcover slipcase.

Moore and Gibson built a very human, believable universe with its own customs, politics and vernacular, delivering a British comics and science fiction classic. If you haven’t read “The Ballad of Halo Jones” before, this is a good and worthy package. But older Squaxx’ more familiar with the story may want to badger Tharg for an oversized hardback “Apex” edition of the three books.

Luke Williams

The Ballad of Halo Jones – Full Colour Omnibus Edition is available now from all good book and comic shops | AmazonUK Affiliate Link | Affiliate Link | Available in print from 2000AD webshop | Available in digital from 2000AD webshop and apps for iPadAndroid and Windows 10

• The Ballad of Halo Jones – Full Colour Omnibus Edition
Alan Moore (Writer) Ian Gibson (Artist) Barbara Nosenzo (Colourist) Steve Potter, Richard Starkings (Letterers)
Released: 17th January 2023
Hardcover, 240 pages
Price: £39.99 / $69.99
ISBN: 9781786187703

Perhaps the most widely respected comic writer of the modern era, Alan Moore’s contribution to the comics world is incalculable. Creator of some of 2000AD’s most popular series, including “Abelard Snazz”, “The Ballad of Halo Jones“, “D.R. & Quinch” and “Skizz“, he has also worked on “A.B.C. Warriors”, “Ro-Busters”, “Rogue Trooper”, “Ro-Jaws’ Robo-Tales”, “Tharg the Mighty”, “Time Twisters” and several one-off strips.

The Ballad of Halo Jones – Creators

Halo Jones and Toby art by Ian Gibson "One of my favourites, because I think I finally got Toby just about right," he says
Halo Jones and Toby illustration by Ian Gibson: “One of my favourites, because I think I finally got Toby just about right,” he says

Alan Moore

Outside of the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic, Moore is best known for his work on the classic Watchmen, which redefined the superhero genre in 1986, but this is simply touching the surface of a career which has included 1963, A1’s Warpsmiths, The Bojeffries Saga and Maxwell the Magic Cat, AARGH!, Batman, Big Numbers, Brought to Light, Captain Britain, Deathblow, Flesh and Bones, From Hell, Glory, Green Lantern Corps, Lost Girls, Miracleman, A Small Killing, Snakes and Ladders, Spawn, Supreme, Swamp Thing, Superman , V For Vendetta, WildC.A.T.S. and Youngblood.

For America’s Best Comics line, distributed by WildStorm, he created including Promethea, Tom Strong, Tomorrow Stories, Top Ten and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and his latest novel, Illuminations, was released last October.

Ian Gibson's cover for "The Ballad of Halo Jones" Book Four - or at least, a might-have-been  cover; a commission for a fan, Ian Leonard, had the character's stories continued beyond " The Ballad of Halo Jones" Book Three. In Book Four, Halo is on her way to becoming Halo Jones - Pirate Queen, a theme Ian recalls might have extended into Book Five. Reproduced here with permission of Ian Gibson
Ian Gibson’s cover for “The Ballad of Halo Jones” Book Four – or at least, a might-have-been cover; a commission for a fan, Ian Leonard, had the character’s stories continued beyond ” The Ballad of Halo Jones” Book Three. In Book Four, Halo is on her way to becoming Halo Jones – Pirate Queen, a theme Ian recalls might have extended into Book Five. Reproduced here with permission of Ian Gibson

Ian Gibson

One of 2000AD’s best-loved and most honoured artists, Ian Gibson is responsible for the co-creation of “The Ballad of Halo Jones“, with Alan Moore, and created Bella Bagley, an unfortunate character in Judge Dredd’s world who fell head-over-heels in love with ‘Old Stoney Face’ himself!

His work outside the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic includes The Chronicles of Genghis Grimtoad, Star Wars: Boba Fett, X-Men Unlimited, newspaper strips and more, plus the designs for the TV series Reboot.

Follow Ian Gibson on Facebook

Barbara Nosenzo is a freelance colourist, currently working for 2000AD and Image Comics. You can find her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

Steve Potter

Letterer Steve Potter, son of another letterer, Jack Potter, worked on stories features in over sixty issues of 2000AD, from Prog 71 to at least Prog 1197, including “Button Man”, and also worked on Judge Dredd Megazine.

Richard Starkings

Comicraft founder Richard Starkings is the creator/writer of Elephantmen and co-creator of The Beef and Ask for Mercy! He loves Yorkshire Tea, Betty’s Tearooms and Lori Perkins, but not necessarily in that order. You can follow him on Twitter

Also Available…

The Ballad of Halo Jones: Complete Edition: The Classic 2000 AD Graphic Novel in Full-Cast Audio

The Ballad of Halo Jones Audio Adaptation - Penguin Audio Cover

A galaxy-spanning story and comics’ first bona fide feminist space opera, The Ballad of Halo Jones is the first true epic to grace the bibliography of arguably the greatest comic book writer the world has ever known.

Bored and frustrated with her life in 50th-century leisure-ghetto housing estate ‘The Hoop’, 18-year-old everywoman Halo Jones yearns for the infinite sights and sounds of the universe. Pledging to escape on a fantastic voyage, she sets in motion events unimaginable; a spell on a luxury space-liner, a brush with an interstellar war – Halo Jones faces hardship and adventure in the name of freedom in the limitless cosmos.

Featuring Sheila Atim as Halo Jones, alongside Ellie Kendrick, Kemah Bob, Michael Fenton Stevens and Yaz Zadeh, with an exciting accomplished cast, existing fans of Halo and newcomers alike will be transported to The Hoop and beyond in an immersive listening experience like no other.

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