Written by: Duffy Boudreau
Art by: Douglas Franchin and Ricardo Sanchez
Publisher: Dark Horse
So I guess that a new creative team was all that it took to change this book completely. This book has turned around entirely, and the momentum that had been built up by the previous creative team is carried through into this issue. It is kind of a bummer that a new creative team is coming on board just as the last one was really starting to find their groove. However, it doesn’t matter too much, because Halo Escalation is now the great Halo comic that fans have clamored for ever since Marvel stopped releasing graphic novels based on the blockbuster science fiction video game.
Halo Escalation #11, right off the bat, takes on a different tone than the rest of the series, and is even something of a departure from the games and other Expanded Universe content. This may sound like a critique, but the tonal shift actually benefits the book immensely. This issue is a lot more fun than previous issues have been, and it’s fun in more than just the summer blockbuster, explosions-every-other-page way that the previous issues have been. Writer Duffy Boudreau seems to have a knack for writing stories that are fast paced and entertaining, which this issue most definitely is.
A lot of this comes from the characters. Rather than focusing on important characters from the games, like Master Chief, the Arbiter, and Sarah Palmer, this issue focuses on two Spartan IVs that we’v never met in any Halo fiction that already exists, at least that I’m familiar with. These two Spartans are named Ray and Thorne, and this issue follows them as they are dispatched to investigate a former Covenant outpost on a backwater, uninhabited planet called Ven III. More on the characters in a second, but this is exactly the type of story that we should be seeing from this book. Treating it like an anthology series, collecting smaller tales from the Halo universe, is the perfect use of this book. Save the big, blockbuster, action packed stories for the games.
Anyways, back to the two lead characters. We don’t spend the entire book with them, as other characters are included. However, the inclusion of Sarah Palmer, and to a lesser extent Lasky, feels more like a mandated appearance of pre-existing characters from the universe. The time we do spend with these characters is great. The two banter with one another, and their interactions lend themselves well to establishing these two as solid characters, and flesh them out for the readers. Spending time with them is excellent, and something that many readers will probably want to do more of.
While the characters are excellent, and the smaller plot is nice, it hasn’t been all that fleshed out. This is the first issue of a new arc, and the plot does seem interesting. However, this issue’s largest weakness is its plot, which seems to jump around quite a bit, and doesn’t really stabilize until the end of the issue. It’s fast paced and entertaining, and the issue is lent depth by the characters, but the plot is a bit all over the place. Could it get better? It most definitely could, and my hope is that it does.
With a new creative team, Halo Escalation seems to be taking on a completely new direction. It’s still undeniably a Halo comic, but it’s a lot more fun than anything in the franchise has been (story wise, the games are a blast). The new creative team is doing great things with the book, and this is definitely the best issue of the series to date.