First off, don’t bother reading this review or this new series if you haven’t played through Halo 4’s campaign and Spartan Ops mode. Halo: Escalation #1 picks up where the main storyline left off.
Six months after the Master Chief accidentally unleashes the Didact, the UNSC sends Infinity back to the planet on a reconnaissance mission. Captain Lasky and Commander Palmer find another ancient Forerunner artifact and…you can imagine.
Catherine Halsey, the psychotic (hero) scientist who created the Spartans, is brought on board the Infinity to examine the artifact, but she betrays the UNSC after striking a deal with Jul ‘Mdama, the leader of the Covenant Remnant. Lasky is ordered to assassinate Halsey and sends Palmer to execute, but through some trickery on the Captain’s part, Halsey escapes the Infinity with her life and joins the Covenant forces.
Meanwhile, everyone visits the Librarian – you could call her Requiem’s AI – and obtains the Janus Key, an instrument that will guide the holder to every Forerunner weapon in the galaxy. One half of the key goes to the Covenant and the other half goes to the humans.
And that’s where we are at the start of Halo: Escalation. Take a deep breath.
The UNSC isn’t very happy about the failed assassination attempt on Halsey and interrogate Lasky and Palmer. Palmer covers up the fact that Lasky ordered a squad of Spartans to protect Halsey in order to manipulate the failed attempt. No one really wants to kill the “good” doctor, it seems.
The best part of the book is that The Arbiter is back, and this time he’s all politics (these new comics are REALLY political), as he tries to establish peace between the Elites and the Brutes. The Infinity is asked to escort and protect the alien leaders during peace negotiations.
For the most part, Halo: Escalation #1 is good except that it doesn’t technically put us right back into the thick of things. The hell with interrogation hearings. Where is the Janus Key?
I can’t help but wonder if this new series’ agenda is to extend the Halo mythos or to act a placeholder for future Halo games. This issue feels a lot more like a companion piece to everything we know so far, and offers A LOT of exposition into the state of the galaxy, which is great, but it needs to be sprinkled in a little less obviously.
Of course, this new series is just getting started. In fact, it’s the first new Halo comic book in a long time that isn’t a prequel to a game. That is enough reason to celebrate. Moving the story forward should be #1 on Chris Schlerf’s agenda.
For now, give this first issue a chance. It isn’t the jaw-dropping start to a riveting new Halo adventures, but if I know anything about Dark Horse and this beloved series, it will definitely get there.
Halo: Escalation #1Writer: Chris SchlerfPenciller: Sergio AriñoInker: Juan CastroColorist: Michael Atiyeh