Halo: Initiation (Dark Horse Comics) Review

Meet Sarah Palmer, sassy Spartan bad ass.

The UNSC has a terrible track record during peacetime. When the Corps is not out blowing up jelly-filled alien monkeys or fighting off parasites that resemble potatoes, they spend their time scheming against their own race in order to maintain control of their territory. If you really think about it (and have followed all the books and comics in the franchise) Halo is a perfect example of what it would be like if the military decided to take over the country, kidnap unassuming toddlers, and turn said kids into sociopathic killing machines in metallic paintball suits.

Horrifying. Yet, since 2001, we’ve been taught to cheer for these Marines, as they ride off to their deaths in order to quell the alien threat. Brian Reed says, “No longer.”

His new series, Halo: Initiation brings to life just how villainous the UNSC can be. The humans just don’t know how to act right when there’s nothing to kill. Much of Halo: Initiation concerns the rise of a brand-new army of Spartans (you’ll recognize them as the Spartan-IVs from Halo 4), specifically Sarah Palmer’s origin as the most badass “neo-Spartan” in space.

Palmer starts her career as an orbital drop shock trooper (ODST), falling from the sky in a blaze of glory to defeat hammer-wielding Brute Chieftains. She saves a whiney general by crushing a Brute with a Warthog, and immediately gets the attention of an ONI (Office of Naval Intelligence) operative named Jun, who is recruiting candidates for the new top-secret Spartan project. The rest is history. More to do with Halo 4 than the rest of franchise’s lore (no galactic ultimate weapons within these pages), Halo: Initiation also reveals the origin of the UNSC Infinity – humanity’s Super Star Destroyer.

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Reed is at his best when subtly revealing the military’s agenda: to oppress those who they vowed to protect. If you’re familiar with the entire Halo universe, you know that before the Covenant decided to go on their “Great Journey,” humans made their side of the galaxy a pretty miserable place to live. Colonists were rising up against the military and forming militias that sought to overthrow the established order. The Spartans were originally created to quell the rebels – and that they did. It wasn’t until the alien threat that Spartans started being looked upon as heroes.

Catherine Halsey, the morally ambiguous scientist who created the first Spartan program (she’s the old woman all the Spartans in Halo: Reach called “Mom”), is eerily missing from these pages. It’s an odd choice by the writer since Halsey would be such a great fit in this storyline, but I’m guessing they still have her locked up somewhere in the dark. She is replaced by Musa-096, one of Halsey’s earliest creations. Musa was abducted as a boy for the Spartan program like countless others, but his body rejected the augmentations, forcing him to use a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He’s the guy who has the bright idea of starting the Spartan-IV program, which one can only find a little alarming, having been left crippled by a similar program and all. I think Musa might be on his way to becoming the quiet villain of the series. Although I miss Covenant/Flood-centric stories, Halo: Initiation continues one of the new narrative arcs introduced in Halo 4 – humanity as its own worst enemy.

Halo:Initiation presents a bright future for Halo comics. Although the narrative is sometimes annoyingly political, the climactic scenes more than make up for it. All I can say is put your money on Sarah Palmer, the Spartan-IVs, and this new run of Halo comics.

Halo: Initiation HCWriter: Brian ReedArtist: Marco Castiello

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4 out of 5