The Ballad of Halo Jones Volume 1
Alan Moore (writer), Ian Gibson (artist), Barbara Nosenzo (colorist)
May 15, 2018
The Ballad of Halo Jones was originally planned to be a nine book series, according to the 2001 afterword by Ian Gibson. I can only imagine how incredible that would be, since as it stands, The Ballad of Halo Jones is instead an extremely enjoyable three-volume origin story.
The tagline for the series is, “Where did she go? Out. What did she do? Everything.” The three volumes that exist are mainly focused on the going out part, and not yet the doing everything part. They still feel like a complete and satisfying arc, however, in a rich and deep future world. Now, the whole three-volume run from the 1980s is being re-released, with the addition of beautiful color work by Barbara Nosenzo.
In the first volume of Halo Jones, we are introduced to the title character, a young woman in a far future who lives on the “Hoop” with her friends, longing to get away from the stifling, dead-end life there, and the rough types who surround her. The Hoop is not a joyful, relaxing place to be. There’s a riot forecast. Going grocery shopping requires several issues of strategic parkour. Very few people are nice, but gosh, Ian Gibson’s pictures are lush and detailed.
In his own afterword to this first volume, a statement from Alan Moore in 1986 says that his goal was to offer a story about “simply an ordinary woman such as you might find standing in front of you while queuing for the check-out at Tesco’s, but transposed to the sort of future environment that seemed a prerequisite of what was, after all, a boy’s science fiction comic.” Halo Jones and her female friends in this first volume do indeed seem like regular people, with a regular range of motivations and emotions, in a tough neighborhood, trying to get by.
It’s an engaging world that Moore and Gibson have co-created. A lot of the visuals will seem familiar from more recent futuristic narratives, such as the movie The Fifth Element. Correspondingly, Moore has a lot of portmanteau neologisms—for instance, when there are a lot of possibly belligerent crowds, “jampede”—that are easily parse-able and contribute to the world-building.
Moore, as usual, is generous and conscientious with providing co-creator credit to the artists he works with, not only praising Gibson’s acumen at drawing women several times in that afterword, but also saying explicitly, “we designed the world, its political make-up, its principal diet, its language and its dress standards, with Ian providing as many of the main concepts and the small touches as I myself.”
The main draw of this rerelease is, of course, the colorization by Barbara Nosenzo, which is excellent. It feels like a seamless supplement to the existing world, like a glass of nice cool water with an already good meal. It does not detract or distract, but rather clarifies. The color palette is one I think of as very contemporary 2018: rich pinks and teals, offset with some gold and purple, green and blue sparingly, for effect. This is a palette that reminds me of the evening scenes in Steven Universe.
Furthermore, Nosenzo employs a watercolor effect that fits very well with the mood and style of the line art. Honestly, the first time I read The Ballad of Halo Jones in black and white a few years ago, the mid-80s stylized figures reminded me of the proportions of Bratz dolls, waiflike generally, with enormous feet and lips. The color helps subtly update the feel of the images in the text.
I wish that while adding the color, the lettering had been cleaned up a bit. It’s not actually difficult to read, but it at least in the digital version seems anachronistically fuzzy compared the clearer images.
All three short volumes of Halo Jones will be released this year, and I just wish there was more of it.