“I go out and buy a gun, second-hand. I tell myself it’s for self-defence, but that’s not true. It’s because I’m bored. […] I take the gun and go sit by the window.”
Halo Jones is an average eighteen-year-old. She likes clothes, shopping and parties. Halo likes to live. The problem is that living in the year 4949 isn’t easy, especially in the Hoop, a cramped and dangerous ghetto created to house the unemployed. Its people have never even seen a tree. Halo wants to escape, to see the outside. Quite often when someone experiences those kinds of feelings it’s themselves they’re trying to escape from, but that’s just not possible, is it?
The Ballad is split over three Books separated by time and degrees of depth and poignancy. Without having an insight into Moore’s mind I can only guess at the pitch he gave to the comic’s publishers, and his reasoning for structuring the three parts like he did. Whatever it was, I'm sure glad they fell for it.
Book I is a safe entry point. Whilst reading you’ll maybe wonder why Halo is so well loved. The drama revolves around a shopping trip. Huh? It feels like a soap opera taking place inside the mind of a fickle and diaphanous head, but that easy-life conceit was necessary to establish a parallel with the organic structure that follows. After repeated readings you’ll get the answer to your question.
Book II ups the game, the danger level and the emotional content. Bridging narratives are traditionally difficult, but Moore overcomes the difficulties.
By the time you get to Book III you’ll be fully invested in Halo’s story, feeling the pinch and pains of her situation. It delivers the kind of experience Moore's famous for. The journey to and through that third and final part is the reason HJ has endured for so long, and will continue to do so for years to come.
Ian Gibson's art is a perfect fit to Halo’s personality and world. The flamboyant costume designs are like fashion sketches, constructed from graceful curves and angles. As the story deepens his clean lines follow suit, becoming gritty and less airy, but even when forceful they're never ugly.
The new edition has a page size taller than the original 2000AD format, but there’s no distortion of the image. That means there’s a large empty space top and bottom. It also retains the beautiful black and white art. The reprint by Quality Comics that coloured and skewed the perspective to fit the more traditional American-size comic book format is now just a bad, bad memory.
4 Hoop-life Heroines out of 5