Well after the epic that was DMZ I'm doing a UK comics month although I deserve a holiday I feel, so posts will be a bit sporadic, but I hope you enjoy what we've got. The final parts of The Ballad of Halo Jones and Zenith as well as wrapping up the first multi-book series of Devlin Waugh as well as the ongoing adventures of the V.C.s and Megacity Undercover. There should be something there for everyone I hope. Kicking us off is the final volume of Halo Jones, written by Alan Moore and drawn by Ian Gibson for mid eighties 2000AD. Halo Jones is a young woman who grew up in the poverty and low expectations of a place on Earth where societies flotsam was kept. After escaping that enviroment and striking out into deep space as a hostess on the starship The Clara Pandy, we left her on a sad note as her friend who promised to meet her in one years time had decided to stay on Earth. Downcast but firm, Halo Jones told her she was never coming back to The Hoop and that brought Book 2 to an end. We join her now after a ten year jump and life it seems has worn her down further. As her thirties are reached we rejoin her, unable to think of anything better to do than join the army and fight in an incredibly sci-fi war.
The prologue finds Halo getting drunk in a bar on a planet called "Pwuc" a place where people didn't go to but ended up at. After quitting her job on the Clara Pandy she wandered the inner systems looking for work to get further to the stars. Elsewhere a war in the Tarantula dragged into its second decade and the galactic economy was on the verge of collapse, "few jobs paid even enough to live on". And none paid enough for interstellar travel.
Halo perservered drifting from job to job, one day back on Earth there was a slaughter on the Hoop, after that she managed three days on a job cutting down sentient treats. Records on what she did that are spotty but, "she was a woman with no money... she'd escaped the Hoop to find a bigger prison waiting outside". Turning twenty-nine she finally realised it was inescapable. So she spent her days gatting drunk, "on Pwuc the Catsblood never ran dry... only the dreams".
Toy asks Halo why she doesn't join up, which Halo laughs off. Toy says it's good pay with travel to other galaxys. It's mainly peace keeping work, "they told me there was practically no chance we'd get to Tarantula" says Toy. Halo remembers her nightmare of being caught in giant spider webs, Toy invites her back to her cabin to rest and Jalo decides to join up, "I mean... what have I got to lose?"
Now a soldier she reflects that she was told it was supposed to be "a great big happy slappy family of caring sharing people" and we see two women wrestling over one having stolen the rations of another. She's been assigned to "Beta Platoon" which turns out to be the place where soldiers with defects are placed.
Then we cut to them on exercises, both she and Toy get "killed" so have a chat, Toy moans she always ends up dead. Then we see them in a lecture hall being told about degenerate savages on a planet elsewhere. Toy is ignoring the lecturer and listening to her favourite soap opera on her satellite implant. She end up getting a bit too into it and interrupts the lecture.
|Joined the army.|
Halo: "Toy this leaflet is a joke! I never should have let you talk me into enlisting!"
They've also been sent to a warzone, much sooner than they should have been, as they jump out of the ship the sergeant says they might get lucky and be one of the sixty percent whose chutes actually open.
They have been posted to an occupied world called "Lobis Lovo" by the natives and "warzone 18" by the military. Halo hates it there, hates having to search old people and kids in case they are terrorists, "I hate the way they look at me" she thinks. But at least it's a job. There camp is on the edge of a petrified jungle where the guerillas are hiding.
There are no recreation facilities so Beta platoon make there own entertainment. Toy relays what she is listening to for their amusement. Halo is getting to know the other women better, Mona is the nicest although she is terribly nervous. There is also one called "Life Sentence" who refused to leave when her time was up. She's re-enlisted eleven times and doesn't speak.
Next day they are given a pep talk by general "Luiz Cannibal" a huge man with tusks. Mona faints, he is chill about it and asks Halo if she finds him terrifying. She says no and he says that pleases him. She tell them they need to intensify their slash and burn within the petrified jungle. He tells them this is their training grond before they move onto more dangerous warzones. He then leaves as Halo reflects how warm his hand were when he cupped her chin.
Next day Beta platoon drives out on patrol into the petrified forest. They come under fire and the vehicle crashes. They take cover behind it. Toy and Halo flank the tree where the sniper is:
Halo: "It hardly seemed real. Something kept taking bites from the gravel at my feet. And above the gunfire I could hear a woman screaming 'Anwo koyok ga!' The bullets were all the translation I needed".
As Toy and Halo move they argue about if this constitutes combat or combat experience. Toy says if they are still alive at the end it's experience.
They thow a "trembler" grenade at the tree and it knocks the sniper out of the tree, "...and then Bekti shot her in the back". Bekti celebrates, but when they check the body they realise she is a child proably not more that eleven. But they refuse to accept that and Halo thinks, "the sniper got older all the way home... and by the time we reached the base she practically died of old age"
We then jump to Beta platoon on their first night reconnaissance, the blackbox recorder of sergeant Verna Krause who says he thought they were ready. He narrates the rest of the chapter, they went out together, the sergeant and six privates including Halo Jones. Everything was going fine until they ran over a "mole mine" and it blew up their vehicle.
|Disaster on patrol.|
Halo, supporting Toy start walking through the forest. Toy is in too much pain to walk though so Halo decides to construct a stretcher for her as they have no proper first aid avaliable to them. Halo patches Toy up the best she can and builds something for her to lie on out of the petrified wood and cloth from her uniform. Toy is in thoughtful mood.
Toy: "This feels funny being laid up like this. I feel... I dunno. I feel like there's stuff I should be saying. Stuff you don't talk about except when you're like this."
She admits to Halo that she is big and loud and has a hard time expressing her feelings, "I... I really like you Halo" she says. Obliviously Halo says she likes Toy too, she's her best friend. Toy sadly replies, "best friends. That's what I meant."
Halo drags Toy back to where they had crashed on their reconniassance mission, it's been grafittied on and the corpses stripped of gear. Toy is becoming delirious and starts reliving when the robot dog Toby attacked them on the Clara Pandy. Halo tries to figure out which is the right way out of the forest but starts suffering delayed shock.
|Halo has a breakdown.|
She wakes from a dream where she is dancing on the Clara Pandy with Toy and Rodice, "and then I wake up. And Toy is still dead. And I cry my guts out" thinks Halo. She signed her release papers to leave the army, Luiz Cannibal came in and asked her to stay but she shook her head. The person processing her papers said Halo would be back, maybe in six weeks or six months but she'll be back.
The tranquilizers finally wore off and she found herself on a street corner of the planet "Hispus" with no home and no job. She queues up for a job, when she says what she is experienced in the person she's applying through suggests the army. She gets a place to live but there is no work. One say she hacks off all her hair:
Halo: "I just feel like doing something ugly and painful and stupid".
She wonders if they sell the Catsblood alchohol there. She goes out and buys a second hand gun that she tells herself is for self defence. She takes it apart and reassembles it several times. She sits in her window and aims down the sights at the people outside. Then she realises what she is doing is crazy and she needs to get out of there.
|Can't readjust to civilian life.|
She's put back in beta Platoon, their new sergeant is a woman called "Juno Myrmidon" taking the late Krause's place. Mona tells them they are beig moved to the planet Moab and this one has a combat rating of "warzone one". Life Sentence is and official member of Bata Platoon. in the ness hall some of the women try to bully halo over going crazy, scaling herself and being a disgrace to the uniform. Life Sentence throws hot liquid in their faces and tell everyone to leave Halo alone. She whispers to Halo:
Life Sentence: "Don't worry. Gonna take care of ya. You re-enlisted. You're like me 'Life Sentence' right? Huh huh huh huh. Two of a kind now you understand what I'm saying?"
Next they are shown a film about Moab, it has enormous gravity whicg requires the wearing of tortoise-like suits. But it also has an effect on time too, but Halo stops listening then.
|Next stop Moab.|
Halo: "I don't know why I said it and can't understand why he didn't fry me. Maybe he file a complaint later, but I don't care. I mean how's going to punish me? Send me to Moab?"
They land on Moab and meet some of the friendly Moabites, "they are sort of pear shaped. As if their body fat has settled" notes Halo.
|Arrival on Moab.|
The men turn out to be "slabs", special labour auxiliary bio-engineered. She doesn't care for them nor the cheese they have to eat. She is offered fried eggs but refuses, grossed by them. Suddenly the eggs hatch and the gravity shields start failing. They all rush for the mess hall exit, bumping into Mona who had just limped there. A woman inside realises she can't make it and the room gets sealed off and the gravity seal ruptured completely. Moan is declared lucky again for missing it all and Halo helps her back to barracks.
Next we find them on patrol, the tunnel a shield so they don't need the heavy suits. They are looking for the "Free Moabite Army". They split up, Mona going one way with the one whose declared her a lucky mascot. Halo goes with Life Sentence, she's ready for a fight, wondering what sort of ears they have. Patrol comes to an ignominous halt when one of them shoots Mona in the foot and the all have to return to base.
Two weeks on Moab and they are in the heavy gravity suits, training in the relative safety of a tunnel. Halo says she feels funny, "everything seems weird and slow and unreal." Sarge says it's the "time dilation effect" and they'll get used to it. She then tells them, "and as for this place being weird... just you you wait till you've been in the Crush".
Week Three and they are on reconnaissance outside in the gravity suits. Mona tells them about the Moab religion, if you're good you float up into the sky, if you're bad you sink down to a terrible place underground as they inspect a hole in the ground.
Week Four and they are attending orientation. They are told that there more than two dozen heavy gravity zones on Moab and the nearest one is the worst, "we call it the crush". It crushes time as well. In the crush, time fractures completely which is why the native Moab terrorists have chosen to make their stand there. She tells them if they cann't imagine in, next week they're going in for real.
|War in the Crush.|
Halo: "In through the shield doors, stumbling over each other, we enter the crush. All screaming to ourselves I our sound proof helmets. Ahead violent lights crackling, flashing: enemy beam weapons that can liquify rock. I advance towards them...there's no running away. Not in a G-suit".
Things distort and slow around them, the fire the are under is relentless, taking several of them out. They see some frozen figures and walk to them as they are in a different time scale. As they walk towards them they begin to move. One woman's suit is breached and she is turned into a smear of blood they stand in. They work their way to the artillery position but it's dead. "Should be pumping out two thousand pulses a second" says the sarge they joined up with. They have to notify the cyberneticists back at base.
They manage to get back to base, piling in through the doors. Halo is then informed she's now a coporal. She got promoted a week after she went into the Crush. They have a new sergeant replacing Myrmidon who fell ten days ago. All in all they were in the Crush for two months, "but don't get any big ideas. You only get paid for five minutes" says the new sarge.
Halo spends more time fighting in the crush and is saddened to realise she missed her thirtieth birthday, by two weeks. "I'm thirty but I don't remember it happening" she ruminates.
Halo: "I've been fighting in the crush for two days now. I've been fighting in the crush for six months... I'm not crazy... but I'm working on it".
One day out in the crush, Mona falls over. Halo and private Exxon roll her back down to the doorway and Exxon is hit and is crushed into a wet smear as Mona and Halo make it back inside. Mona is celebrated as the first person to fall over in the crush and not die. She been sick in her suit.
Later they are shown some "hologanda" from Earth to raise morale. The main item is the marriage of Lux Roth Chop aged twenty-three. Halo remembers dancing with him when he was eleven, "was that really me who did that? Yes. Yes that was me... this isn't"
Day five and she turns thirty-two and they are told Earth is winning. Day ten and she's promoted to sergeant and turns thirty-three. Leuitenant Wo tells them victory is only days away. "Do the their days or ours?" she thinks. Her team raise a globe on a stick and suddenly the shooting at them stops. Then they walk back to the base, completely free of enemy fire.
|And the war is over.|
Halo is tasked with finding the other platoons out on Moab's surface, but when she finds them they won't believe the war is over. Halo thinks:
Halo: "They won't listen. They could be at home with their men, their children. But they've somehow got stuck in a war that doesn't exist anymore. Some of them will be out their for years. How do we clean up that kind of mess? How do we clean up the mess in people's heads, in people's lives, all that loss and pain?"
A Cetecean comes to inspect them. Halo shows them the Moabites living on little food and amongst the ruined icons of their faith. The Ceteceans feel strongly and says, "what have we done? What have we done to them? What have we done to ourselves?" Halo wants to rush up and cry or apologise, "but I couldn't meet her eyes". The Cetecean moves on leaving Halo thinking how if you could give a "conscience a shape it would look like a dolphin".
Later she discovers Life Sentence having slit her wrists. She says war was like a mother to her, and now her mother is dead, "what's the point of me?" And she dies smiling in Halo's arm.
Halo: "'What's the point of me?' I really hope that's isn't the thought I take with me into eternity."
She reflects that she's cold and lonely and all her friends are now gone. Luiz Cannibal appears and notes she writing and that only one person in a thousand still writes. He then bluntly asks if she has a lover and as they listen to the sirens she finds he's taken her hand.
He sends for her to come to breakfast in one of the more desolate areas of Moab. As she thinks about the shattered fragments of her life she eats the most delicious meal of her life. He tries to make small talk, but Halo cuts straight to the point, that he's attracted to her. She says she is attracted to him as well, because he scares her and he has nice hands:
Halo: "I know you're going to be bad news. And I want to be with you anyway. You think that means I've got an unhealthy attitude?"
He says he thinks it means they understand each other. Then he takes her to the western hangers and shows her a beautiful spaceship. It is capable of visiting the far systems, they could go anywhere in it. With the war finished he wants to leave soon and take her with him.
|Luiz Cannibal's ship.|
That night they sleep together and after they have sex she sleeps and dreams again of being entangled in spider webs, "in my dreams the passageways are filled with cobwebs and corpses". She knows what there is to worry about and what she has to lose, but when she wakes up she can only remember the terror.
|Luiz and Halo get intimate.|
That afternoon they keep pressing Luiz about the devastated warzone. Aparently before it was burned there were reports of cholera and bubonic plague. They accuse Luiz of infecting the planet and killing it that way befor covering it up with nuclear firestorm. "You're talking about ratwar" frowns Luiz. The inquisitor says yes they are.
Halo thinks about ratwar, millions of diseased rats controlled by one man flowiing across a world carrying disease, plague, madness and death. Luiz says do they have proof he had a Rat King? They don't, but Halo remembers helping the Rat King on the Clara Pandy in the previous volume. Luiz stalks away from the hearing saying he's offended they'd accuse him without proof while Halo realises she saved the Rat King, it was all her fault, "Oh Luiz. Luiz you lied."
Halo: "You killed a planet and you dragged me into it. Even before I met you. That's the worst thing: I thought I was innocent then."
He climbs into a heavy suit saying to Halo he has some valuables to collect. She kisses him and unseen by him as she does so she sabotages the seal of the suit. He walks away, smug, "within minutes he'll be a puddle of jelly. He doesn't know it yet but he's dead." She contemplates her future, her past dead to her. She goes to the western hanger and tells the guard she has permission to take the ship on a test drive.
Halo: "It's night and there are so many stars up there. Gradually the cruiser gathers speed... the nose lifts as I prepare to tear free of Moab's gravity. It feels like a web, straining against me, growing taut, finally snapping strand by strand... and then I'm out... just out".
|Finally a way to the far distant stars.|