Sunday, 9 January 2011

Books: The Ballad of Halo Jones


The Ballad of Halo Jones
Written by Alan Moore
Art by Ian Gibson


Available now from Islington Libraries
You can reserve this item for free here:

"Dataday, Day-to-day, making a pact with the facts... I'm Swifty Frisko, Hi!"

The first book I ever wrote about here was The Filth (by Grant Morrison and Chris Weston) but thanks to bad formatting and my own obsessive compulsive nature (god forbid someone puts the toothpicks back in the wrong place - and will spend god knows how many hours tearing apart the house until I find them [1]) I had to take that first batch of posts and re-post them (yeah - actually - maybe it's better that you don't ask). Thanks to that - Halo Jones is now my first post which - well - is a little bit weird - because yeah - I like Halo Jones and it's a cool book - but I don't think that I like it so much that I would like want it to be my very first post. But then again (turning it over in my mind): there is a strange sort of aptness to it - I mean - yeah it's Alan Moore (just to state the obvious: I like Alan Moore) just starting out and just starting to show the world what can of things you can actually do with these comic book things - and it's a book that I feel like I have a lot of history with (I think I must have first read it when I was about 10 or 11 [2]): so yeah - why not Halo Jones? If you're looking for a place to start you could do a whole lot worse: and even tho it's pretty simple looking (it was first published in 2000AD after all - way back in 1984!) and that even a teenager can get to grips with it - it has a strange mesmerizing complexity that showcases not only all the fun things comics can do but also - just how brilliant Alan Moore can be.

According to legend Alan Moore was fed up with women in science-fiction being depicted as "yet another "Tough Bitch With A Disintegrator And An Extra 'Y' Chromosome" - and so him and artist Ian Gibson decided to tell a story about an average, unremarkable everyday woman who just happens to live in the 50th Century and whose biggest adventure is a shopping trip. Beginning with a two-page spread that zooms in from outer space through a sea of flying cars across the top of a futuristic city to a giant floating complex and into the face of one young dreamy looking woman [3] overlaid with a crazy jargon heavy broadcast that is just one small step away from being crazy gibberish [4] ("He will now be addressed as: 'Procurator Bandaged Ice That Stampedes Inexpensively Through A Scribbled Morning Waving Necessary Ankles") this is a series that's most notable for its dense dizzy-making world construction as first time readers find themselves flung in the deep end with future slang ("crumped") and strange references ("ice ten" and "zenades") that only start to become clear the further in you wade (so just stick with it ok?): most science-fictional worlds tend to be based around one idea (what if people lived in a world where dogs could talk?) and can end up feeling a little bit slight - Halo Jones's great strength is that it takes place in a world that feels fleshed out enough to sustain several books, a series of films and a computer game tie-in and that Halo is just one character amongst billions: trying to make her own way out. There are spaceships, wars and robot-dogs but the tone is downbeat and muted: when you do see an alien he's probably standing on the side of the road with a sign that read: "Be glad you have a tail - I haven't." Of particular note: the chapter titled: "I'll Never Forget Whatsisname" which manages the difficult trick of being funny and sad at the same time [5].

As opposed to most boys-own adventure comic artists who normally like to stick to hard, jutting lines and square jaws Ian Gibson is much more about the circles and curves [6]: (there's a good reason why the setting of Book 1 is the majestic and mega-sized Hoop: Gibson draws structures so good looking that it makes your mouth water - and who cares if it's an awful soul-crushing slum - there's still a part of me that wants to find out what it would be like to live there [7]).  

[1] Have you ever seen The Conversation with Gene Hackman? Yeah - it's a little bit like the end of that.

[2] 2000AD and Alan Moore were major components of my teenage years: and I had a few people around me who wanted to impress the good stuff on to me from a young age.

[3] I may have made this sound better than it actually comes across: Ian Gibson's artwork is a little scrappy and strangely cartoony - but just stick with it - it's a little bit of an acquired tastes that you just have to let yourself get used to.

[4] Bonjour!

[5] But I guess mainly sad. There's a reason it's called the Ballad of Halo Jones after all...

[6] For my birthday my girlfriend took me on surprise trip to the London Air Line Millennium Dome cable-car thing: and I've gotta say the three towers that keep it up look like they could have been stolen from an Ian Gibson sketchpad - all graceful arching lines and height height height.

[7] Shave my head and join the Different Drummers - hell yeah - why not?

Links: Hooded Utilitarian Blog Review, Ninth Art Review, Tearoom of Despair: Martha Jones, Tor ReviewAn Sionnach Fionn Review.

Further reading: Strangers in Paradise, Skizz, The Life and Times of Martha Washington in the Twenty-First Century, ProphetTransmetropolitan, The Complete Future Shocks, Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 07, Solanin.

Profiles: Alan Moore.

All comments welcome.

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