If Volume 1 dropped you into the world of Halo Jones, Volume 2 tells you more about that world in its prologue than you knew reading all of Volume 1. In the form of a lecture given about Mz. Jones in the future, it’s explained how the Hoop works and who the Drummers are. These are concepts readers have probably started putting together for themselves, but they weren’t clarified in Volume 1, and now when you’re not expecting background information, there’s a comprehensive history lesson filling in the blanks. Writer Alan Moore, and artist Ian Gibson, aren’t doing themselves any favors. You really have to stick with Volume 1 and avoid making rash judgements to discover Halo Jones is gold, but if they’re willing to take that risk, you’re rewarded for putting the work in with another great installment to this series.
At the end of Volume 1, Halo had joined the crew of The Clara Pandy and promised her friend, Rodice, that they would meet in a year’s time. Volume 2 takes place over that year and includes regular reminders of how many months have passed, and letters to Rodice that keep the end goal in sight. The promise of that meeting isn’t necessary to keep readers going, but it’s one of the few things that I can talk about without spoiling the otherwise unpredictable turns in this book. As hostess, Halo gets to meet many of the passengers on The Clara Pandy, and finding out who, or what, is staying behind each door is no joke after meeting the steersman and realizing that nothing is off limits.
Lettered by Steve Potter and colored for the first time by Barbara Nosenzo, the prologue manages to suggest Ancient Rome while introducing a candy-coated future, with classism underneath. In chapter two, Nosenzo colors the speech bubbles so they heat up like a thermometer when characters are angry, and at the end, when the violence of Halo Jones is confronted through Gibson’s art, you can look back on these early scenes and see how much was premeditated.
Carried over from Volume 1 is a desire by Moore and Gibson to never let readers get overly comfortable in this world. The social customs are different. Halo isn’t concerned that her work uniform is a one-legged leotard but that it shows off her feet. The language can look like gibberish until you sound it out and realize the words are still English.
Again with the prologue, but there’s some interesting commentary about how female stories get framed. One theory is Halo Jones is Hal Jones. Another tries to lay her decision to work in space on a bad romance. Most importantly, Halo Jones is a regular person and while this probably isn’t the intended takeaway, she isn’t above making real mistakes. A huge storyline deals with gender nonconformity and a character who gets ignored because they don’t subscribe to gender norms. It’s taken to an awful place, and Halo is no better than the other passengers in how she treats them. For a comic that came out in the 80’s, it’s progressive and disconcerting at the same time and changes how you think about Halo Jones. Volume 1 was always more than a shopping trip, but Volume 2 has some revelations to make about that, as well. If you haven’t read Volume 1, that’s the place to start but otherwise, Volume 2 is another Trojan horse, full of social issues and female leads jonesing to bust out.
The Ballad of Halo Jones Volume 2 is on sale now from 2000 AD.