Trade Secrets: Halo Escalation Volume 1

Welcome to Trade Secrets, a new (and hopefully ongoing) comic book review segment from your friendly, neighborhood RUL Staff!

Thanks to the fantastic folks over at Dark Horse Comics, I was given the chance to read and review two soon-to-be-released collected editions based on video game properties. In these reviews, I’ll go over the basic info of the comics (writing/art credits), the story, the art style, and my overall impressions.

Warning: If you haven’t read Halo: Escalation or finished Spartan Ops in Halo 4, there will be spoilers. You’ve been warned. 

The Basics:escalationvol1
  • Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
  • Writer(s): Chris Schlerf
  • Penciler(s): Sergio Ariño & Ricardo Sánchez
  • Inker(s): Juan Castro, Rob Lean & Jason Gorder
  • Colorist(s): Michael Atiyeh
  • Lettering: Michael Heisler
  • Covers: Anthony Palumbo
  • Pages: 152
  • Format(s): Trade Paperback and Digital
The Story:

Escalation picks up shortly after the events of Spartan Ops, with the UNSC Infinity in orbit around Earth. There, Captain Lasky an Commander Sarah Palmer are brought in for questioning concerning the attack on New Phoenix, as well as the recent events at Requiem. We get to see Lord Hood himself, as well as Admiral Osman (Kilo-Five fans, where you at?). From there, the crew of the Infinity is tasked with overseeing peace talks between the Jiralhanae leadership and the Arbiter at the behest of Lord Hood himself. Of course, everything goes to Hell in a tidy little space-faring hand basket.

We get to see the familiar Fireteam Majestic in action, as well as Fireteam Bailey, giving up plenty of Spartan-IVs doing what they do best: making witty quips and putting bullets in aliens. There’s a predictable traitor-in-our-midst scenario, a NOT so predictable source of said treachery, and callback to forgotten friends. The volume ends at issue six in the series, with the universe tipped delicately on a sharp point. All signs point to war. If the series is any indication as to where Halo 5: Guardians will head, we can expect chaos on several fronts; insurrection, Sangheili/Jiralhanae war, and worse.

The Art:
Look at those cheek bones!

The covers are dynamic, with the first few issues focusing on Sarah Palmer, Captain Lasky or both. Later issues feature space battles and great terrestrial scenery. A variant for issue one gives us a nitty gritty closeup of Lydus, the leader of the Jiralhanae. The interiors find their strength in close up shots of characters, which are highly emotive with dramatic shading and great attention to detail. Far off shots and backgrounds tend to be minimal, but I honestly feel this is a boon for the book, as high detail for most of the scenery would cause the characters to be lost amid a wash of technology and various backdrops.

The overall artistic direction reminds me of older action comics, kind of pulpy, with a dash of the edgy comics that came out of Marvel and Image in the 1990s.

Final Thoughts:
All hands, I require a more comfortable chair!
All hands, I require a more comfortable chair!

Going into a comic based on other media, I always have low expectations. It’s just a result of frequenting my comic shop on Wednesdays and seeing piece after piece of “meh” quality crossover work hit the table and not sell. I was pleasantly surprised by Escalation, especially given that I’m a big Halo fan. Maybe being a Halo fan helps, as the series seems to flow like one big Spartan Ops cut scene (it doesn’t hurt that the writer was also Lead Writer for Halo 4!) There are a couple of art inconsistencies, mostly just miscolorings and Covenant anatomy issues. Miscolors happen, and I feel like the anatomical issues come from mixed source material and a lack of communication from 343.

Overall, it’s a great read for a Halo fan, and I feel it could be a good jumping-in point for anyone new to the series after Halo 5: Guardians releases.

The volume releases on October 8th, 2014 in both Trade Paperback and Digital formats.


All images courtesy of Dark Horse Comics and