When Halo tells her friends she is getting out of here, she means it. Here being The Hoop. Home, of a sort. The slum, where every outing holds danger and even a simple shopping trip needs complicated planning and redirection at every turn. The latest trip does not go smoothly. Riots. Delays. Reluctant partners. And the scent of blood.
When she sees the Clara Pandy, a beautiful antique vessel scheduled for destruction, it captures Halo’s imagination. There is definitely more to life than what she has, and she intends to grab it. The Hoop ruins lives. This time it has gone to far.
Somehow through it all Halo remains casually cool and plays the loyal friend through her exasperation. Halo herself is an admirable character and it is easy to see why she has been hailed as such a strong female role model. Her loyalty, honesty and good sense do her credit, and she is fiercely independent and strong-willed.
Perhaps more than all of that, what makes her special is that she is an ordinary woman – so refreshing to see this on the page in this first volume; she does not need superpowers or a prophesied destiny or a tortured back story to make her feasible as a character. She is a feasible character in her own right. She behaves just as any of us would probably behave in her circumstances, without any gimmicks, magic or deus ex machina coming into play. This is probably what made Halo Jones so well received at the time of its original release and what carries her through to now, some 30 years later, as still standing out as a fantastic example of a great female lead. She flies in the face of everything you expect to see in a comic book hero or sci fi/fantasy protagonist, and it works.
Aside from Halo and the characterisation in here, there are other brilliant touches. Swifty Frisko’s radio broadcasts are used form the start to set scenes and provide context without too much info. dump and work wonderfully to ground the reader in this world. Later in the narrative Halo’s inner thoughts also appear on the page as extracts from her diary entries, granting the reader a lovely glimpse into her desires and motives in her quiet moments.
The Ballad of Halo Jones was originally published in black and white but is released here with a fantastically futuristic colour palette, which perfectly complements Halo’s punky personality and feels like an ideal fit for the general tone of life in The Hoop and its ‘colourful’ inhabitants. There is also bonus content in the form of Alan Moore and Ian Gibson telling of how Halo’s story came about, so a nice re-package of a classic that is as enjoyable to read as it ever was.