Halo: Lone Wolf #3 – Review

“With Covenant forces closing in on their location, Spartan sharpshooter Linda-058 must rally the human settlers under a single essential cause: protect an AI that contains the bulk of human history. As new threats rise, the legendary supersoldier sees her mission parameters shift and finds that she will need help from the very man she was sent to kill.”

The penultimate issue of Halo: Lone Wolf has released!

As the Covenant prepare to invade Doctor Chen’s settlement, the action takes a backseat in order to focus on Linda and Chen himself – the man she was sent to kill.

Between some of the strongest character writing yet in this escalating conflict, consistently good art, and a notable tie-in with the recently announced Halo: Outpost Discovery experience, Lone Wolf looks to be heading to the finish line with a bang.The previous issue concluded with Linda being informed by Athos (the ONI AI accompanying her on this mission) that the mission parameters have changed due to a startling discovery.

An AI – thought to have been lost with the Promise of Dawn when it fled the battle of Reach – that contains a complete record of all of human history is, in fact, intact.

This AI is now the entirety of their mission.


OUTPOST AI DISCOVERY

Issue #3 opens by immediately cutting to the chase: the AI that contains this vast record of human history is Gabriela.

(Called it!)

For those not in-the-know, Gabriela is the AI who will be a central guiding figure for the Halo: Outpost Discovery experience that was announced last month.

Halo: Outpost Discovery is a touring fan experience for all ages, that brings the Halo video game universe to life like never before. This weekend-long event lets you step into Halo’s vast and epic world, with enthralling themed attractions, interactive in-universe encounters, the latest playable game releases and so much more. [Community Update – ‘Discovering Outposts’ (7/2/19)]

Consumer Products Team artist Sarah Campbell spoke a bit about her input on Gabriela’s design, specifically her uniform (based on Campbell’s own USMC experience), in the recent 343 Social Stream on Mixer – ‘Discovering the Museum MacGuyver.’

Additionally: Kiki Wolfkill stated in the announcement interview that this experience has ties to the lore, as it is set after the events of Halo 3.

This backstory is wholly non-essential for those who are going to Outpost Discovery, but it’s a rewarding little bit of connectivity for those of us who are invested in the lore.According to Athos, ONI believed that this mission was worth the risk due to the possibility – now confirmed – that this AI remained intact.

Some people asked me, in-response to the previous issue, what the big deal is about a AI who knows all of human history. Issue #3 answers that question by noting that this includes details about Earth and all the colonies that humanity has settled, along with “all we fought for ad lost” on Reach.

Linda then vocalises what has hitherto been a recurring motif in the previous two issues: ONI’s nonchalant disregard for the survivors.

“Worth it for the AI, but not the living left behind here. How can history be more important than our own people?”

When Linda asked about survivors in the first issue, the Commander dismissively waves her hand and says that they are to be extracted “if possible,” but that comes second to assassinating Chen.

In the second issue, Linda chooses to put the people first – much to the chagrin of Athos – as she is more interested in prioritising saving lives rather than taking them.

A rather interesting development for this character who has a reputation for being terse and detached, even amongst her fellow Spartans outside of Blue Team.

Back to the issue, Athos states that they will “clean the site” (read: “kill everyone”) if they don’t find Gabriela in time, which Linda is clearly reluctant to do. Her response sees a rather tremendous pay-off in the following panels, as she ruefully says:

“For the record, what we fought for on Reach was each other.”

With this single line, everything clicks into place for Linda’s characterisation in this comic series and why she has behaved contrary to ONI’s assessment of her personality. Why she’s put the people first.

It was alluded to in the previous issue where she informs Chen and his people that the Human-Covenant war was won, but that victory “came at a price.”

This was a subtle reference to the assumption that the Master Chief is most likely dead after the events of Halo 3… events that Linda (along with the rest of Blue Team) missed because they were trapped within the Onyx Shield World.

We are now getting to see how that has affected her.

Not only did she lose many of her fellow Spartans at Reach, she also was initially listed as one of the dead – shot repeatedly by plasma fire, she was put into cryo by John aboard the Pillar of Autumn, to be later revived by Halsey.

A new contact on the Pelican’s targeting display appeared – right behind Linda. He had to warn her–

A bolt of plasma struck her in the back. Another blot of fire blazed her from the upper decks and splashed across her front. She crumpled – her shields flickered and went out. Two more bolts hit her chest. A third blast smashed into her helmet.

“No!” the Master Chief said. He felt each of those plasma bolts as if they had hit him, too. [Halo: The Fall of Reach, p. 328]

Her brothers and sisters died, but she was the one who came back.

And then, just a short while after, it looks like the Chief himself is dead…

It’s hard to ‘meaningfully’ say that this is the best piece of media for Linda’s character because there’s not a whole lot to stack it against that has explored her perspective, but Lone Wolf has absolutely earned that title.

Additionally, it connects nicely to the moment in The Breaking, the penultimate mission of Halo 5, where Linda protectively steps in front of the Chief as he comes face-to-face with Cortana.

That little motion now genuinely feels like it has a lot more weight behind it, thanks in no small part to this comic.

One hopes that we might, at some point, see a future solo project for Kelly-087 with this level of quality.


APPROACHING THUNDER

Back to the issue, we pick up with Shel and Chen in the settlement.

To recap the reveal in the previous instalment: Shel reveals to Linda that she was the one who called the UNSC, confiding her fears that Chen has been keeping them here – those who disagree with him have a tendency to ‘disappear.’

Upon reaching Linda’s ship, they found it in flames, Hala burning it with a flamethrower because she knows what her mother did and wanted to cover it up by leaving no doubt that they believe in Chen.

In the present, Chen admonishes Shel for destroying Linda’s ship, saying that they could’ve used it to pull the Covenant away from their work.

I speculated that there was a more tactical manoeuvre to be played out with this plan, as the Covenant would likely be expecting to see the Promise of Dawn attempting an escape (given that it’s been on the planet for quite a while now), not Linda’s ship.

That plan, however, does not appear to have been what was on Chen’s mind.

Shel reaches for a device on the table which she realises is an AI’s data storage unit, not a NAV unit as they had been led to expect.

All pretense drops as Chen intercepts her hand and accuses her of lying about destroying Linda’s ship – that she never understood the importance of his work.

Meanwhile, the Covenant prepare to mount their attack…It is noted that the Covenant’s approach here (killing the humans but preserving their equipment – which naturally sets up the risk that they will find Gabriela) is something the dozen-or-so Banshees they have will not be enough for this more intricate operation.

This is also the only time the Covenant appear in this issue. Where the previous two have had some minor skirmishes, this third instalment is entirely character-focused and gives the writing so much space to breathe.

Back at the settlement, a standoff occurs as Shel tries to reveal that Chen has been lying to them. Loyalties are clearly divided, triggers about to be pulled, but Linda steps in and disarms everyone before things get out of hand.

Linda says that the Covenant destroyed her ship and that she can help restore their original NAV unit, which Chen points out is with the rest of their ship which will take hours to get to – hours they don’t have.

As a Spartan, of course, Linda has a very particular set of skills that she is confident can get the two of them to the Promise of Dawn in no time.

They prepare to set off and Athos considers all the things that Chen might try to do. Kill her, use her to run away, lure her into a trap, abandon her on the surface…

Pointing out that Chen doesn’t know everything she can do, Athos retorts that she’s giving the man a good demonstration of her skills and abilities as she clambers up the cliffs, tossing a rope down to Chen (which breaks as he nears the top, Linda just managing to grab hold of him).

Linda concludes by saying that Chen doesn’t know about Athos, which he jokingly takes as “An unsolicited vote of confidence,” and asks if they suddenly became friends.


AND THE HORSE YOU RODE IN ON…

The remaining seven pages of this issue are dedicated almost entirely to Linda and Chen.

Chen (who has opted for a scarf with his open lab coat to stay warm on this snowy trek!) seems to be enjoying himself as he climbs across the rocks, asking if Linda ever did this when she was a child.

Linda, of course, never had a childhood – certainly not one she can remember with any clarity – and simply responds that she was trained in all environments.

Questioning from Chen about whether she can remember anything from before prompts the same flashback we’ve seen as a recurring motif in every issue thus far.

The feeling of her mother’s hands in her hair, a smile on her face – a ‘normal’ life.

A parallel might be drawn here between Spartan-IIs and AIs, as AIs retain some residual memories from the donor brains.

Serina, for instance, according to the lore in the Halo Wars strategy guide, spent her free time trying to remember the taste of chocolate. Her ‘memories’ include the smell of flowers and the feeling of her feet on grass. Little things that link to her humanity…Chen confides that he used to climb rocks every weekend to get away from his brothers and read – about all the worlds the UNSC would take him to and the missions he’d run for the good of humanity.

Linda notes that he no longer believes that, prompting him to ask whether Linda does herself, or if the ability to make up her own mind was another thing taken from her.

The irony, of course, is that Linda has been making her own decisions. If she were simply following orders, Chen wouldn’t have survived past the first issue.

“A soldier follows orders,” she tells him. “That’s the foundation of the UNSC.”

Athos logs the possibility that Chen has already accessed Gabriela, as he starts talking to Linda about a bastille (a prison) being stormed during the French Revolution and how the revolutionaries didn’t just free the prisoners but tore the prison itself down brick-by-brick so it could never again be used against them.

This is what Chen seeks to do to the UNSC, and why he’s so interested in Gabriela. He believes that only by learning about who laid the foundation for the UNSC can they tear it down for good.

How exactly Chen plans to go about enacting that is another matter entirely, but before this conversation goes any further Linda quickly steps in to protect Chen from a mine that detonates in front of them.

Who placed that mine so close to the ship and whether Chen deliberately detonated it in an attempt to kill Linda or not is left for you to decide.

The mine is heard from the settlement as the silhouette of a Covenant ship arrives on the horizon.Arriving at the Promise of Dawn’s wreckage, Chen informs Linda that the NAV unit is behind a hatch.

Athos hurries her, telling her that they’re running out of time and he can access Gabriela from here, but as Linda pulls the AI chip from her helmet Chen closes the hatch on her arm – trapping her.

He knows why she was sent and it wasn’t to nobly rescue them, so he offers her a choice.

Join him in “building a new foundation,” without the UNSC… or they all die.

Linda insists that the Covenant cannot get their hands on the AI, but Chen retorts – as two turrets are aimed at her – that the UNSC can’t either because they no longer represent humanity’s best interests.

He does.

The thing about Chen is that… well, he’s half-right.

The UNSC has been a major source of contention in the setting for a long time as an imperialist force, with Outer Colony rebels seeing it as a fascist organisation.

And the post-war state of humanity, who have unexpectedly found themselves the victors of the Human-Covenant war, with the people pulling the strings becoming aware of humanity’s ‘destiny’ to become inheritors of the Forerunners’ own empire, while ONI plots ways to commit genocide against the Sangheili…

It’s easy to see Chen’s perspective in wanting to tear it all down.

*

Lone Wolf #3 delivers another exemplary issue that provides an even stronger focus on its character writing from Anne Toole, visually brought to life by Kieran McKeown (pencils), JL Straw (inks), Dan Jackson (colours), and everyone else involved in the art process.

‘Consistency’ is the word that I think best describes Lone Wolf at this point. Where other Halo comics have had pitches and slippages in some areas with writing and art, Lone Wolf has consistently delivered quality on both fronts for three issues now.

Linda is the highlight here, receiving some genuinely meaningful and far-reaching substance to her characterisation that I can’t wait to see next issue’s resolution to.

Next time (April 3rd), Linda and Athos are up against the clock to rescue the humans of the settlement and confront Chen for the last time before the Covenant overwhelms them all.


You can purchase Lone Wolf #2 on Dark Horse’s site here. It’s also available on Amazon for your Kindle (UK | US), and a complete hardcover edition will be released June 25th 2019.

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