Thursday, 3 November 2011

"Halo: A Fistful Of Arrows" Review

by Alex Hill


Over the course of a year, a man going by the username "Leviathan" has been digitally painting a short fan-comic. It's called "A Fistful Of Arrows". His goal was to shed some light on the fate of a character the source material could not be bothered to care for. In the process, he has explored in unblinking detail why these characters and situations could have been something great. He took characters who were largely forgettable, and found out why they should have mattered. He wrote dialogue and events for the same characters from a multi-million dollar corporate turd, and did so with sometimes shocking precision.

One man on his own time did a better job with the same material, than people who were paid over the course of four years. Levi Hoffmeier paints circles around Bungie and Microsoft Studios. He rummaged through the hollowed-out carcass of a truly wretched game, and fashioned it into something valuable.

It's the story of "Jun", the sniper character who supposedly is a bit of a chatterbox with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The game failed at this when it did not involve him in the story often enough, rarely let him speak, and never brought his emotionally crippling psychological disorder into view. They couldn't have mishandled their own creation if they had portrayed him as an ant-eater. They even forgot to tell you what happens to him. They either forgot about one of the main characters, or just could not be bothered to make a decent story.

"A Fistful of Arrows" takes on the responsibility that Joseph Staten refused in Halo: Reach. It explores the characters' motivations and fears, and helps us to understand the men beneath the shiny helmets. Jun was just sort of there in Halo: Reach, not really taking away or contributing. This comic does a great service by putting him in deeper focus. That's because it treats him like a human being instead of a moving prop. They are treated as remarkable individuals, with strengths and vulnerabilities. Characters who made absolutely no sense to me in the game are made crystal-clear here.

I KNEW there was a reason why I liked Emile.

While it would have been nice to see more of his interactions with Noble Team, Levi did more here than I ever thought possible with their team dynamic. The only other nitpick I might have is one I feel like a jerk for even bringing up. Sometimes the paintings or the faces look a bit puffy and undefined. But to even attempt a high-polygon art-style like this is an impressive feat, and you can see the author get a lot better at it in the third act. The man knows how to paint him some rocks. And lord knows I've tried and failed at digital painting enough times to know how back-breakingly hard it is to get anything to look right. So, I guess saying it looks really, really good only most of the time is hardly a valid complaint.

There literally is not one inch of this comic that doesn't outperform everything in Halo: Reach. It really serves to highlight just what a bunch of slobs the people at Bungie are. They could have had this. They could have given these characters the respect they deserve. They had the time, they had the money, they had writers who aren't complete idiots. And still they strangled a great concept, for fear their audience would be too dimwitted and restless to appreciate it.

Unlike Bungie, Levi Hoffmeier doesn't despise his audience, or the material he has to work with. He actually cares about what he does with a story, and who he shares it with. He cares enough about The Soldier not to trivialize or simplify them. All of the polygons in the world can't replace that.



No comments:

Post a Comment