Five week months typically see many publishers stretch out the extra week with annuals and other one-shot comics. This final week in August is light in comparison to previous years but not one without a notable release of a new mini anthology. Months after its release, Dark Horse follows up the Halo Wars 2 video game by telling the story of the game’s villain in the new Halo: Rise of Atriox #1.

As always if you want the skinny on the weeks in DC and Marvel check out the run downs on The Beat.

Halo: Rise of Atriox #1

 

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Writer: Cullen Bunn

Art: Eric Nguyen

Color: Jeremy Colwell and Lee Loughridge

Published by: Dark Horse Comics

 

More than ten games after launching Microsoft’s original Xbox video game console in 2001, the Halo brand is still showing no signs of slowing down. Back in February 343 Industries launched Halo Wars 2. A game that tells the story of The Spirit of Fire Crew, a group of space marines who find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. They’re the only thing standing in the way of “The Banished”, a faction made from disenfranchised bad guy aliens and led by a brute warlord known as Atriox.

Personally, I never got around to finishing Halo Wars 2. Real time strategy isn’t something I can devote hours of my life to but from the brief time I did spend with the game I can see why those who enjoy those sorts of titles rated it soo highly. In the game; Artiox is as relentless, cunning, and vicious a character as the franchise has ever seen. Dark Horse Comics isn’t so much looking to tell you the back story of this character as they are reinforcing him. Writer, Cullen Bunn tells a disturbing and haunting vignette story through the last remaining moments of a UNSC Sargeant as her battalion is slaughtered by The Banished.

How do you tell a character story about a character you aren’t meant to understand? Bunn decided to go the smart route and use an unwinnable situation and its orbiting pieces to craft the dread and tension this story instills in you. From the onset these marines are facing impending doom, that feeling isn’t alleviated by the A.I counting down their numbers throughout the book. It’s a mechanic good writers know when to use because it almost never fits a story. Bunn’s hopeless theme is really all there is to these pages. The bits and pieces of story importance as to why these troops are being attacked by The Banished are more easter eggs for anyone who played Halo Wars 2 rather than any sort of narrative build. It’s a noticeable flaw but manages to be the book’s only nitpicking. When you consider that this #1 is intended to be more of a vignette than a linear mini-series, not telling much of an overall arching story is of little consequence. The sheer emotion produced in these pages is staggering. For characters I don’t know and am intended to not build an attachment to, you can’t help but get a seeded sense of valor from the Sargeant’s fight till the bitter end.

As we’ve said this book only has one flaw, but it sure isn’t the art. Eric Nguyen along with colorists Jeremy Colwell and Lee Loughridge do some spectacular work to match the tone Bunn aimed to write. Nguyen’s style reminds you of Jae Lee’s work on WildC.A.T.S years ago, action that’s busy and fierce yet easy to follow along. The artist’s work also has the right amount of grit necessary to illustrate a story that showcases a villain such as Atriox. It’s not as easy a line to tow as one might think. Rise of Atriox #1 is meant to be an action comic book, having too much dank and grit risks turning it into a horror book which wouldn’t fit Bunn’s tone. The other part of that equation is Colwell and Loughridge’s color work. It’s a true lesson in how a color artist uses the light source to paint the world. From the sun of an alien land to the blue light shined by a talking A.I, every element that shares the panel is properly leveled in its lighting.

Overall, Halo: Rise of Atriox #1 is strictly for the Halo fan. Stories that take for granted knowing the material and lore are rarely enjoyable by the average fan. Rise of Artriox isn’t the exception to the rule but has a strength of its own. This is as good a single story as some of the early rebirth issues of Superman. Its only downfall is that it can only have significance with a niche part of the comic book audience. One that not only enjoys the external world of Halo but one that’s also played Halo Wars 2.  But man if you fall in that category, this is one hell of a treat.

SCORE:

[Won!] Halo: Rise of Atriox #1 is the best time you’ll have looking at the worst case scenario. It’s a book worth looking at just on face value alone.

 

Here’s the rest of this week’s #1’s

[WON!] BLACK RACER & SHILO NORMAN SPECIAL #1 (DC)- Just freaking great!

[DONE!] DARKSEID SPECIAL #1 (DC) – A book that could have used a heavier editing touch.

[DONE!] RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS ANNUAL #1 (DC) – Has a hard time finding its footing.

[WON!] SUPERGIRL ANNUAL #1 (DC) – Shows off how unique a character Supergirl is in contrast to Superman.

[DONE!] GENERATIONS HAWKEYE & HAWKEYE #1 (MARVEL) – One of the Generations specials rare misses. 

[DONE!] AMAZING WORLD OF GUMBALL 2017 GRAB BAG #1 (BOOM!) – A bit too boring even if you’re a fan of the show.

[DONE!] BATVARK #1 (Aardvark Vanaheim) – A book in need of brushing up on fundamentals.