Halo: Escalation by Brian Reed
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Halo: Escalation series continues to impress. It’s everything a great tie-in graphic novel should be.
While most of volume two continues the adventures of the Spartan-IVs, a section of the book is devoted to a somewhat surprising face: the Master Chief himself and the Spartan-II Blue Team. I mention this as a surprise because it seems like, aside from a few early novels, the Halo universe seems to shy away from depicting the big MC in the expanded universe fiction, preferring instead to save his exploits for the games themselves. It’s nice to see Blue Team show up here, which I recognize is meant to prepare gamers for their appearance in Halo 5, but regardless, it’s still fun.
The Master Chief storyline is a very nice segue between Halo 4 and 5, dealing with the aftermath of Halo 4’s emotional ending. One thing that has continually struck me as odd is the Didact himself, however. Warning: spoilers for the comic and (possibly) Halo 5 to follow.
Still with me?
Halo 4 made it seem like the Didact was going to be a recurring antagonist; he definitely seemed “defeated, but not killed” at the end of that game. Which I’d thought would mean we’d see his big ugly mug again in Halo 5 . . . but Escalation makes it pretty clear that the Didact is done, since in this book, Blue Team hunts him down and kills him, and they kill him pretty decisively. I suppose it’s still possible we’ll see more of the Didact, but . . . it feels unlikely. I wonder if he wasn’t as well received as 343 was hoping and so they steered away from him in favor of other villains in Halo 5.
Back to Escalation itself; although the Master Chief storyline is the standout here, the rest of the book is quite good. There’s a good balance of world building that I enjoy and the work that’s gone into the Spartan-IVs really shows. Ray and Thorne are back and even Palmer’s characterization has smoothed out from her rocky start in a previous graphic novel. Despite how good it was to see the Chief in a book, it also reminds one that the universe is much, much larger than just the Chief. I appreciate that.
Final verdict: good stories, good art, good pick for a Halo fan. I’m happy to recommend this one.