3 out of 5
So I’m sensing I’m in the minority in terms of not being a Simon Bisely fan. There’ve been dudes definitely inspired by Biz that I dig (Martin Emond especially), but Bisely himself is always too murky for me, and when working on sequential art, its completely static and / or unintelligible to my eyes.
I also don’t play Halo.
So a Halo anthology graphic novel with its longest story featuring Bisely art probably isn’t going to win me over. THEN WHY ARE YOU HERE? asketh the Halo fans, whom were rather approving of this collection, and I respond: Tsutomu Nihei, creator of some cool-ass manga like Biomega. Nihei contributes a silent, zombie-blastin’ short. The creatures are named The Flood in Halo, and their gooey, morphin’ properties make then not such a stretch from Nihei’s general goopy antagonists. It’s cool to see the dude work in colors, but the story is what it is: zombies and guns, minus all of the surreal world-building in Tsutomu’s own works.
Those mentioned fans of this GN appreciated that it explored some outer corners / untold stories of Halo, and wasn’t just a quick cash-in. And I can similarly appreciate that from my outward-looking position; that the fan-service comes through knowing winks and not Big And Loud I Know Who Master Chief Is obviousness, and as the stories are allowed to stretch out to lengths appropriate for their focus – and to not all be action brawls – speaks to editorial oversight that was focused on quality (which is, indeed, convincingly spoken to in the intro by creative director Lorraine McLees). However, I would like to think that standalone tales such as these would offer some something that might indicate the reasons for fascination with the game, or intrigue me to check it out. But that just doesn’t happen.
The Bisely story – scripted by Lee Hammock – is a pretty generic Aliens riff; Jay Faerber and Edward Lee explore the genesis of a renowned armor suit from the game, but it’s not technical enough to incite any sci-fi interest within me. Nihei’s bit was covered above. Brett Lewis and Moebius (no shortage of talent on this book, despite my Biz criticisms) offer the most interesting exploration, of a world pre-alien invasion, and the news censorship that goes on there. If not for some hiccupy pacing that robs the story of much “arc”, it would be a solid short, instead of a passing interest.
In all cases, the subject matter doesn’t really break the video game-story barrier, which is a limit to how complex things can really get in most non-RPG type games (that is to say: Not very). But it’s a very respectfully put together hardcover, with tons of pinup extras and appreciated post-mortems from each creator. The Halo Graphic Novel makes it clear that all involved had clear passion for the material. That doesn’t strictly transmute to the reader, but it makes the project an acceptable read.