Review - Halo: Escalation #1

"Please tell me the calvary's on its way."

Escalation rarely bodes well, unless you're on an escalator and your destination happens to be on a higher level. When it's a player in intergalactic peace summits, then you know that things are really about get the opposite of peaceful. In fact, things are going to get downright violent. That's the situation in Halo: Escalation #1 from Dark Horse Comics. The issue is written by Chris Schlerf, illustrated by Sergio Ariño, inked by Juan Castro, colored by Michael Atiyeh and lettered by Michael Heisler.

After Palmer's failed assassination attempt on Dr. Halsey, she's escaped with Jul 'Mdama, the Sangheili now leading the Didact's Promethean troops after the events of Halo 4. From a military perspective, that's a whole lot of error, which is why Palmer and Lasky are being interrogated by the Board of Admirals regarding the mission, prior to being assigned a new one. The new mission? Broker a peace with the Arbiter and the Jiralhanae brutes for the safety of their home world.

Schlerf is the lead writer of Halo 4 and it shows. His story weaves in the events of the game very well and even mixing in the Arbiter from Halo 2 and Halo 3. The story starts off fairly methodically, with a good portion of it devoted to debriefing Palmer's failed mission with Dr. Halsey, but then things really pick up from there and start moving. Once the peace talks "break down," the issue becomes synonymous with what a Halo stage feels like. It becomes exceedingly frenetic in a heartbeat and ends with a relatively impossible situation for Palmer, the Arbiter and a few other delegates to contend with. The story makes sense and the characters play their roles well, but the reasoning for the combat is a little unclear; presumably, there will be a bit more on the subject in future issues.

Ariño focuses a lot on the foreground characters, paying little attention to things going on in the background. In this sense, the illustrations of background characters is very basic, mainly relaying to the reader that there are characters in the background. Spartans are illustrated very well and the Arbiter captures the look and feel of a Covenant leader. There's a lot of stacked panels that helps with the pacing of the story, as well as some great shots of the chaos that comes with the mini-invasion. Some of the character anatomy feels a little stilted; for instance, there's a panel with Palmer running that looks like she was placed in a running position and looks unnatural.

As with most books in the Halo universe, Halo: Escalation #1 is a lot more accessible and interesting to those who have delved into that universe. Still, the book combines a rather adventurous story with solid art that goes from zero to 60 in a heartbeat. It boasts a Spartan that isn't Master Chief and the Arbiter is one of the more fascinating characters from the series. Schlerf has a lot of leeway to play here and he clearly knows what makes Halo tick, which is encouraging for subsequent issues. The first issue is a pretty bold opening in what's setting up to be a rather intense, action-packed ride.

Halo: Escalation #1 is in stores today.