By Marc Strom
"Halo" fans have reason to rejoice, as 2009 sees the release of two all-new limited series delving into the games' mythos.
The trilogy of video games, which follows a character known as the Master Chief in a future world as he battles against the Covenant, an alien alliance which has a less-than-friendly relationship with the human race, will return to the comics page in two series written by Peter David and Fred Van Lente, respectively.
David tells us that his as-yet-untitled story, which will run five issues with art by Eric Nguyen, will "focus on the ODSTs, or Orbital Drop Shock Troopers, the gutsy division who make headlong perilous descents into extremely hazardous situations."
As to where it falls in relation to the story of the main "Halo" trilogy, David explains that it takes place "before the first game."
"Although the Covenant has certainly presented itself as a threat to humanity by this point," the writer promises.
David also reveals that he had to do a little bit of research after he found out he'd write the next HALO limited series.
"I knew the basics of 'Halo' before I was contacted about writing the series, but once I got the gig, I immersed myself in the Haloverse," he explains. "Played the game, read the strategy books, read the novels. Got myself up to speed as fast as I could."
The writer also explains that working on the upcoming HALO limited series has a few differences from working on Stephen King's DARK TOWER, which he also writes for Marvel.
"It's different from DARK TOWER in that I'm writing the full script with the guidance of Microsoft, which then goes to the artist," David elaborates. "With DARK TOWER, the plot is written by Robin Furth and overseen by Stephen King, which then goes to the artist, and then I write the script. Ultimately it's not much different from working on Star Trek novels or comic books. I participate in a shared universe and write a story set in that universe."
Finally, David teases fans that while his series will not focus on the video games' main character, it will feature "a very brief cameo of the Master Chief before he actually was
the Master Chief."
Fred Van Lente, who pens the second five-issue series with art by Francis Portela, says that his series kicks off when a covert mission hits a speed bump.
"While on a top secret mission behind enemy lines, the elite strike team Spartan Black crashes on a moon with a new kind of Forerunner installation on it, 'The Line,'" Van Lente exposits. "A Covenant cruiser has also been shot down and crashes on the same moon. Members of both Spartans and Elite are captured by the mysterious entity that lurks therein.
"Completely cut off from contact with United Nations Space Command, the chance of rescue remote since their mission was so secret almost no one knows they were sent out here in the first place, the remaining members of Spartan Black must form an uneasy alliance with the surviving Covenant to storm the Line and rescue their captured comrades."
Like David's series, Van Lente's will also take place before the events of the original trilogy.
"[It occurs] right before the fall of the human colony world Reach, which is what sets the first game, 'Halo: Combat Evolved,' in motion," the writer offers up.
Before the opportunity to write this series came about, Van Lente had only had one experience with the "Halo" games.
"I had played the multiplayer before...at a bachelor party," confesses Van Lente. "It was a bachelor party held in an arcade. Yes, I was the best man and it was my idea. Stop snickering. The strip club came later."
Since then, though, Van Lente has become a big fan of the Haloverse.
"One of the things I do with assignments is immediately immerse myself in the world they're set in, so I went out, bought an Xbox and played through all three games in a matter of a few weeks," Van Lente goes on.
"And that didn't just annoy the heck out of my wife—it also gave me a huge appreciation for the Halo universe and portraying the universe as accurately and excitingly in the comics series as possible. And I read several of the novels as well, for events in those books directly impact the plot of Spartan Black."
As for who will show up in his limited series, Van Lente reveals that "exactly zero" of the characters from the games will make appearances.
"But we have plenty of new characters, Spartan and Covenant and—maybe—Forerunner alike, for fans to love and cherish," touts Van Lente. "Like Iona, the smart mouth A.I.; the snipers and saboteurs who comprise the crack O.N.I.—that'd be Office of Naval Intelligence for you newbies—strike team Spartan: Black; and Thon and Reff who share a deep bond and a dark secret."
Van Lente's work on this series has led him to collaborate closely with the folks at Microsoft, who have given him and the artist a behind the scenes loook at what went into the creation of the original "Halo" trilogy.
"The folks at Microsoft have been incredibly helpful in giving me, and particularly brilliant artist Francis Portela—my M.O.D.O.K.'s 11 compadre, great to be working with him again—access to all their top-secret designs of the Halo weapons, designs and some new stuff I don't think fans will have seen before.
"It's really terrific to ask if you can get a schematic for a weapon or an Elite vacc suit and then actually have it suddenly pop up in your email queue. It makes the world of the game more real for me and Francis, and that in turn will definitely make the world of the comic more real and intriguing for the reader."
Stay tuned to Marvel.com for more on both upcoming HALO limited series. For all the latest New York Comic Con news, announcements and interviews, plus live panel blogging, video features and much more, visit Marvel.com's NYCC 2009 Hub Page! Also, be sure to check out Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited!
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