Posted by: Graeme McMillan on August 22, 2007
It’s both a complement and an insult to say that HALO: UPRISING #1 reminded me of some old European Heavy Metal-type comic, I guess.
Visually, at least, it’s all complementary. Alex Maleev’s art has never really fit the American superhero market to my mind – not that that’s a bad thing – and his recent work for things like Illuminati or Civil War: The Confession have seemed pretty but out of place, some awkward attempt to give those books gravitas that they didn’t really deserve. Here, however, his photo-referenced, John Van Fleet-lite, work makes more sense; I’m not familiar with Halo at all – I’ve never played the game (Games? Is there more than one?), and I didn’t look at the graphic novel released last year – so I came to this with no preconceptions as to how the world should look, which may be one reason why it worked so well for me, but I think another is that Maleev’s work should be on some kind of “War is Hell” book, even one that’s all about how Space War is Hell as well, you know? He has the grit and realism for that kind of thing. It’s not just the artwork that makes the visual aspect work so well, however; the lettering is a factor, with its square dialogue balloons and slightly-too-large font. It’s different enough to remove the reader from the other Marvel books’ context and, indeed, place them in a Heavy Metal frame of mind instead.
The less-than-complementary aspect of it reminding me of a European book is in Brian Bendis’ script which isn’t so good. It’s not just that his dialogue seems to be more artificial and self-conscious than usual, but that there are times when what the characters are saying seems completely divorced from the visuals (In particular, there’s a torture scene where a character is clearly in pain and begging to be released in the dialogue, but nothing is happening to him visually; he doesn’t even look as if he’s in pain) – it all reads like some kind of bad translation or misunderstanding of original (probably French) dialogue, for some reason. Not that the writing is especially bad, but it certainly falls into Bendis’ special “Interesting failure” category at this point.
Whether you dig this book or not depends, I think, on how much you want to dig it. It’s certainly flawed, and not for everyone – if you dislike Bendis and Maleev, there’s not enough sci-fi to pull you through, for example – but I can’t really say that it’s appalling or such. Instead, it’s pretty much just Eh. But then, I never really liked Heavy Metal.