Halo: Escalation by Christopher Schlerf
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Now this is a damn fine Halo story and an example of what I think should be the standard for other Halo graphic novels.
As mentioned in my “Halo: Initiation” review, this book does a much better job of introducing Sarah Palmer as a likable character, as not only is she devoid of much of the arrogance from her previous version, she even apologies to another character for being “unprofessional” at one point, which I think indicates the author has a better handle on her character. The cast is also much larger and more diverse, with a few different plotlines woven together. In particular, I really enjoyed Commander Lasky and Spartan Ray working together and their subplot was, I think, the most interesting.
I’m also a big fan of the Arbiter (he might even be my favorite Halo character, in fact) and so any book that gives him a role will make me happy, even if he’s mostly a side character.
But what made this book great for me, aside from the strong cast of interesting and likable characters, was that it wasn’t afraid to really dive into the plot and world building. We’re getting a look at the universe in the post-Covenant era, full of warlords and feuding and attempts at diplomacy. We see Sangheili that are becoming money-driven information brokers and Jiralhanae that are actually more than just berserker monsters (though only barely).
It’s a world that fills vibrant and alive, and focuses on a story that’s more than just “kill these guys and blow this thing up.” It even brings back a tantalizing glimpse at a story element from the somewhat forgotten game “Halo Wars” which wasn’t terribly popular, but one I really enjoyed. I won’t spoil the details here, but it was great seeing the UNSC Spirit of Fire getting mentioned again.
“Escalation: Volume 1” sets a high bar and I’m eager to see if Volume 2 can continue this level of momentum. Regardless of how the next book plays out, though, I would say this is a must-read for any series Halo fan. It has a bit of everything: action, plot, Spartans, aliens, and action, and it’s all wonderfully balanced. This is what a Halo graphic novel should be.