Something For The Weekend: The (Remastered) Ballad Of Halo Jones – Nosenzo’s Colours Are The Percussion To Moore & Gibson’s Orchestra
by Olly MacNamee
Ah yes, The Ballad of Halo Jones by Alan Moore and Ian Gibson. Surely the greatest incomplete masterpiece since Geoffery Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, right? So, what better book to look at after a brief hiatus for Something For The Weekend?
Maybe something of a slight exaggeration, yet there is no denying people’s immense fondness for this ordinary girl in an unordinary universe and the outrageous fortunes (and losses) she encounters along the way. And, as previously reported, Rebellion, the publishers of 2000AD, are reissuing it across a number of volumes and with colours by Barbara Nosenzo. And, picking it up again after so many years, it’s still a great read and still relevant today in a ‘Have and Have Not’ world in which we live in where the gap between the rich and the poor is ever widening to leave a chasm between those with wealth and the rest of us.
It’s more than just a nostalgia-tinged read as some stories from our youth can often be upon re-reading them, but on picking up this first volume, it feels like a potentially timeless classic too, indirectly commenting on the social injustices and just down right unsociable, patriarchal society we have created for ourselves. It’s a book that doesn’t pander to the gore and violence that Moore recognised as the staples of 2000AD, and so it seems as though not much happens, especially in this first book that spend a great deal of time following Halo Jones and her friend, Rodice, on the shopping trip from Hell Shopping that has become an everyday obstacle to the citizens and outcasts of the Hoop; an encapsulated ghetto where the down and outs – and a large proportion of women – are cast to live out their lives.
With the gonzo names that sci-fi can often throw at us, as well as the social commentary provided by Moore and Gibson, this has more than a slight feel of the Dickensian about it. But in the future! People claim that if Dickens was alive today, he’d be writing for soap operas. On this evidence, I’d argue he’d be writing for comics. I mean, Halo Jones, Lux Roth Chop, even the magnificent space faring ship, the Clara Pandy, are names that would sit well alongside the likes of Martin Chuzzlewit, Ebeneezer Scrooge or Mr. Pumblechook.
Like Seinfield, this could be seen as a book about nothing, but of course, within its pages it gives the reader a fully realised world that can be hard to navigate with its future-speak and over population. Not to mention some dubious youth cultures too. But then, that’s the pull of Moore. He doesn’t patronise his readers and certainly even challenges them, what with throwing a mainly all-female cast of characters at them who possess no great abilities whatsoever onto a predominantly male readership.
Their problems were problems we could relate to as the teenagers reading this back in the 80’s. Like so many of us who want to see more than just our pokey neighbourhood, Halo Jones gave us all faith as she set off on her galactic adventures. And, she was a true heroine long before the likes of Star Wars’ Rey, a similarly working class female hero, when you think about it.
With the inclusion of exquisitely concerned colours by Nosenzo, this truly feels like a completely new read to me. Why? Well, I read this back in the day, and on the toilet paper-level crude material they used to print 2000AD upon. And, even with oversized pages, a lot of Gibson’s delicate art suffered greatly. Here, and on glossier paper, Nosenzo’s colours really illuminate Gibson’s art and elevate it to a complete new level that deserves to be recognised. Whether its the busy streets of The Hoop, or the grim filth of Manhattan, were Halo and Rodine end up, or those panels where Gibson gives us an almost photorealistic Halo Jones, Nosenzo’s colours are the percussion to Moore and Gibson’s orchestra and together they make this book sing. And, what tune is that they’re singing? Why, it’s The Ballad of Halo Jones, of course.
The Ballad of Halo Jones Vol. 1 is out on May 16th, 2018 from Rebellion.