I'll once again admit that I've never played Halo, though I've heard countless recollections by starry-eyed gamers, telling tales of their victories and throughout worlds that comprise the Halo universe. Anyone who has even experienced a glancing blow from video game culture probably knows this: Halo is about super soldiers fighting against an alien insurrection, and there's a relatively complex back story that spans multiple games and ties everything together. Even if you're not aware of the finer points of Spartans fighting aliens, HALO: FALL OF REACH — BOOTCAMP is an ideal place to start.
Boot camp is, of course, the beginning of a military career, and as such, Brian Reed constructs a story that begins at the most nascent points of Halo mythology, approaching portions of this story from the perspective of a child who is abducted from his family to serve in the military and eventually become a legendary soldier. It's all a variation on the prototypical Captain America tale, but far more grim and futuristic. While other Halo collections have dropped into the middle of the action, Fall of Reach is a series that promises to appeal to those who haven't logged many game hours.
The grittiness of this world is enhanced by the artwork of Felix Ruiz, whose scratchy, scribbly style of art creates an uncomfortable and unsettling, but altogether accurately emotive portrayal of forced military servitude. While much of Halo is predicated on the ultra-science-fiction of threatening aliens known as the Covenant, they don't appear until the very last page of this collection, marking a dramatic conclusion that makes future collections a very inviting prospect. For now, Bootcamp goes deep into pre-alien military missions and politics as a team of Spartan soldiers go up against a rebelling colonel who is fighting to gain freedom from Earth's colonization practices.
In a genre where we're typically endeared to the rebels, fighting against Darth Vader or whichever totalitarian military dictatorship has emerged in their universe, it's definitely an atypical narrative perspective --- especially when the good guys start using very Empire-like blue holograms to communicate. Halo borrows as much from pop culture as it has ended up contributing to it.
Marvel's "teen" rating on this collection feels appropriate. Child abductions, followed by children being treated abusively (and even shot), occasional rough language and lots of blood make this appropriate for the intended video game audience. Interest in Halo-related titles is apparent within the library system, and these graphic novels have seen high circulation rates. It's a worthwhile addition to a collection. Just keep it on the higher shelves.
Reviewed by Collin David on April 27, 2011
Halo: Fall of Reach: Bootcamp