Halo might be between games as everyone waits for Halo 5: Guardians, but that doesn't mean the fighting is stopping.
Dark Horse's Halo: Escalation has been forging into the Halo universe after the recent Halo 4's Spartan Ops storyline, and recently hired writer Duffy Boudreau has a Spartan Commander Sarah Palmer, Dr. Catherine Halsey and Commander Jul 'Mdama chasing each other while trying to track down the prices Janus Key, key to all Forerunner artifacts.
In February's Halo: Escalation #15 (previewed here), we saw various parties vying for that, and it continues with the new issue on March 25. Newsarama has an exclusive first look at the covers to Halo: Escalation #19 and #20, as well as a talk with Boudreau about his and artist Douglas Franchin's work, the upcoming "Glass Horizon arc," and the whereabouts of Master Chief.
Newsarama: Duffy, for people who haven't been reading -- what is Halo: Escalation about?
Duffy Boudreau: Halo: Escalation is about the post-war period in the Halo universe, a chapter in the Halo saga that bridges the gap between Halo 4’s Spartan Ops and the upcoming Halo 5: Guardians. Halo: Escalation #1 through #12 really focused on the reconstruction period, characters trying to find their way in this world of new threats and alliances. Starting with #13, the story links up directly with Spartan Ops. It becomes a full on sequel, where we see the fallout from Spartan Ops. A very powerful Forerunner artifact known as the Janus Key is now up for grabs, with both sides possessing half of this object. Spartan Commander Sarah Palmer is hellbent on capturing the fugitive Dr. Catherine Halsey. Halsey herself is more determined than ever to track down the Absolute Record. And Commander Jul ‘Mdama is struggling to reunite a shattered Covenant.
Nrama: How would you describe Halsey and ‘Mdama?
Boudreau: Halsey’s the same strong personality we’ve always known. She’s the most divisive figure in the Halo universe, and as such, a total joy to write. She’s brilliant, determined, single-minded in her approach to unlock the secrets of the past in order to bring sentient life into its next phase of existence. As we know, many of her greatest scientific contributions have come at a massive cost and will continue to be debated by the other characters. As “The Janus Key” arc (Issues #13-16) kicks off, we see a hardened and resolute Halsey. She’s more cynical than ever about the UNSC and more determined than ever not to allow them to get in her way.
Commander Jul ‘Mdama’s fate is directly linked to Halsey’s. As he’s leading a faction from the remnants of the Covenant, it’s very risky for him to involve a human at such high levels. But he knows he needs her expertise. So the big question surrounding Jul in this arc is will the gamble pay-off? It’s a high-risk, high reward situation for him.
Nrama: And they're in pursuit of the Janus Key. What does that Forerunner object do?
Boudreau: The Janus Key is a Forerunner artifact given to Halsey by an ancient Forerunner known as Librarian during the events of Halo 4’s Spartan Ops. It’s composed of two parts and when you combine these halves the key provides access to a site called the Absolute Record. The Absolute Record is a storehouse of information which provides real-time locations for every piece of Forerunner tech hidden throughout the galaxy. So if you control the Janus Key, you have access to the location of every piece of Forerunner tech in existence.
Nrama: Coming up in April you have a new arc, entitled "The Glass Horizon." What's it about?
Boudreau: “The Glass Horizon” is an interlude during the larger “Janus Key”/“Absolute Record” arc. I don’t want to give away too much, but it’s a very personal story about a particular character that we’ll be seeing much more of in the near future. As the title suggests, it’s set on a glassed world, so we’ll be exploring the struggle for survival in that unforgiving and desolate environment.
Nrama: The Master Chief -- will he be returning to Halo: Escalation this year?
Boudreau: Chief is off doing his own thing at this point. He went off the grid in Halo: Escalation #10 and he’s not coming back until Guardians. That being said, a lot of what happens to these other main characters--especially Halsey and Palmer--will have an effect on him down the road. There’s definitely Chief-related groundwork being laid even when he’s not physically present.
Nrama: Are there any other characters, races or worlds from the Halo mythos you hope to be able to utilize in future Halo: Escalation comics?
Boudreau: Yes, but I like to keep all this a secret. It’s more fun to let these details roll out naturally than reveal them up front.
Nrama: You've recently been joined by artist Douglas Franchin -- how do you think you and him are meshing so far with depicting this story of Halo?
Boudreau: Douglas has been phenomenal. One of my favorite things about his work is his visual storytelling. His page compositions are clean and clear. And that foundation highlights his other strengths, which are the more obvious things like drawing Covenant creatures and vehicles.
Nrama: Duffy, you took over Halo: Escalation back in October's #11. At what point did you settle in and begin to feel like it was your own?
Boudreau: Right off the bat actually, because after I spoke with Brian Reed about the overall trajectory of the series, he encouraged me to develop the mini-arc of “Exposure” in Halo: Escalation #11 and #12 on my own. I had a lot of fun writing those two issues and felt like I worked up a good bit of momentum to take me into these larger arcs.
Nrama: One of the good (or bad) parts of this, depending on how you look at it, is the research needed to write a Halo book. How many hours do you think you spend playing the games at this point?
Boudreau: Obviously, it’s one of the great parts of writing this series. It’s really transformed the way I experience Halo as a player. Because of the writer part of me, I tend to rush through games. I’m always interested to see how the larger narrative develops, so I'll sprint my way to the end. After taking on this book, I’ve been doing the opposite--replaying levels and exploring ever corner of these worlds in quest for cool detail. Plus, now that the Halo: The Master Chief Collection is out, it’s the perfect time to go back and wander.
Nrama: The next game, Halo 5: Guardians, is set for release in late 2015. As writer of the comic, what are your hopes, expectations and plans with that coming down the pike?
Boudreau: Personally, I want my run on this book to be up to the high standard of the rest of the Halo universe. Halo 5: Guardians is going to be amazing and I hope Halo: Escalation is getting fans excited in the lead up to this massive release.