By GrimBrother One -
Guess who’s back. Back again. Fodder’s back. Tell a friend.
Indeed, your favorite lore-leaning Halo serial is back! It’s been a while since our last issue, where we covered the detailed story elements within the Halo: Fireteam Raven arcade game. In fact, just in case you are new to this space in general, welcome! Canon Fodder is a fiction-focused feature that we’ve had running for the past four-and-a-half years(!) now, each one diving into different aspects of Halo’s vast and ever-evolving fiction, as well as giving story fans a space to go to catch up on the latest news on releases or details they might have missed out on recently. If you’re interested in checking out the back catalogue, you can do so here.
As for today’s issue specifically, it’s been a bit of an embarrassment of riches for lore fans lately with a whole host of new content coming in around and just after the new year – and from a variety of different mediums too, including comics, novels, and yes, even a bit of new game material. What’s that, you say? Read on…
On an isolated battlefield in an isolated war, old strategies return to relevance.
Just last week, we celebrated the birthday of a beautiful game – Halo Wars 2. The RTS title grew from being just the potential sequel to a beloved (albeit more niche) original and evolved into something quite worthy of standing not only on its own, but also alongside other robust and memorable Halo game experiences. At last tally, the title included twenty campaign missions over three distinct storylines, a whopping sixteen(!) playable Leaders, and (including Blitz mode) eleven multiplayer maps.
Well actually, make that twelve.
You know what, Alex? That sounds like a great idea. Cute doggo, btw.
No, we aren’t bringing “all the maps” back, but we are bringing a fan-favorite back to the fold. Back in the original Halo Wars, there was a map named “Fort Deen,” so named for its Ensemble-employed designer. This time around, its spiritual successor is Fort Jordan, carrying on the map’s legacy of donning the namesake of its maker – in this case our very own Matt “Wrensi” Jordan, who has been literally working on this as a labor of love for a good little while. In fact, to hear more of the story behind its inception and development journey, make sure you check out Postums’ companion blog that went live yesterday on HaloWaypoint.com.
Now of course, it wouldn’t be a full-fledged member of the HW2 family without its own entry into the Phoenix Logs codex feature. With that in mind, let’s celebrate the new map by taking a look at the newest Phoenix Log vignette in today’s issue of CF.
“Poor kid never saw it coming.”
Corporal Kyla Emmett pulled the edges of a tattered UNSC banner over the lifeless body of a young Marine they’d all just called “Matthews.” Kyla had seen plenty of action as a member of Boomerang Company – even well before this latest excursion to yet another otherworldly alien installation. The seasoned ODST had expertly dispatched the enemy scout responsible for their party’s latest casualty, but it wouldn’t make a difference in the long run if things didn’t change quick. She was part of a dwindling resistance force stationed at Fort Jordan – a scrappy outpost set up on a strategically-located island on the Ark’s surface.
“Why are they even out here?” Kyla’s thoughts were interrupted by Jacob Arden, a Hellbringer with zero patience and even less of a filter.
“Probably because we’re still out here.”
“Which begs the question…”
Even behind that gold-mirrored faceplate Kyla knew the facetious face he was making. She ignored him and gave a final once-over at their lifeline – a lone remaining Mastodon APC that allowed them to traverse the artificial island scavenging for supplies. Not to mention, it offered at least some sort of protection from the remaining Banished forces that lingered on with seemingly no other priority than to make their lives miserable. Jacob knew good and damn well why BOTH sides were still there. The UNSC had come here looking to set up camp near a downed Covenant craft in hopes of salvaging anything the technicians on the Spirit of Fire might find useful. Not long after, the Banished came looking for it as well, led by a Jiralhanae warlord who had too much pride to call for backup. Immediately the Banished took down their long-range comms, and a battle of attrition began. For weeks numbers on both sides had been dwindling, and it seemed a final clash was not only inevitable, but soon at hand.
Kyla was joined by two remaining members of her ODST contingent within Lotus Squad, as well as a specialist sniper, the sardonic Hellbringer, and three – well, make that two now – frontline infantry. A number that made it easy to fit in an M650, but difficult to win any wars.
“We’re out of time, Corporal.” The transmission came crackling through her headset, carrying the voice of their sniper who had set up shop at the edge of their local comm range in hopes of giving whatever early warning they could. Ristyx was on his way, and most Banished warlords weren’t known for their diplomacy. The corporal slapped the side of the Mastodon and gave a signal to the others.
“We making another run for it?”
“No Jacob,” Kyla said calmly as her helmet fully polarized. “no more running.”
Fort Jordan is available now – for free – in Halo Wars 2. Maybe hop in and go provide some reinforcements for Corporal Emmett and the gang later today? They’d probably appreciate the gesture at least.
THE JIG IS UP, THE NEWS IS OUT
Like Fort Jordan, the newest story to publicly populate the universe in many ways is built off the heritage of the original Halo Wars (which itself is celebrating its tenth birthday). Instead of a skirmishable playspace however, it’s the legacy of a hero who sacrificed it all to save his crew – and hopefully help protect the future for his daughter.
Enter Halo: Renegades, the latest novel penned by Kelly Gay. The follow-up to the novella Halo: Smoke and Shadow, the story continues the adventures of Rion (pronounced like “Ryan” – short for Orion) Forge, daughter of Sgt. John Forge from the UNSC Spirit of Fire. Here’s the back-of-book text to catch you up:
Find. Claim. Profit.
In a post-Covenant War galaxy littered with scrap, it’s the salvager’s motto—and Rion Forge certainly made her mark on the trade. All she wanted was to grow her business and continue the search for her long-lost father, but her recent discovery of a Forerunner debris field at the edge of human-occupied space has now put her squarely in the crosshairs of the Office of Naval Intelligence and the violent remains of the Covenant.
Each faction has a desire to lay claim to the spoils of ancient technology, whatever the cost, sending Rion and the crew of the Ace of Spades on a perilous venture—one that unexpectedly leads them straight into danger far greater than anything they’ve ever encountered…
I’m going to try and sound as unbiased as possible here. This is the type of book that is tailor-made for regular denizens of this space. Now, that doesn’t guarantee it will be adored by every single person – nothing is – but I can tell you there are few other titles that accomplish what this one does from a deep-lore perspective. It’s easily in my own personal Top 5 book list for this franchise, and is a shining example of win/win fiction – if you aren’t super well-versed in Halo lore, it’s just an awesome and exciting story that’s easy to jump into and understand. However, if you are one of those canon-curious, detail-minded maniacs that love devouring every brilliant breadcrumb that might fall from the table… then you will find a myriad of experience enhancements within this book’s covers.
It’s one of my personal favorite aspects of the title – the range of pockets within the universe from which are drawn details. Halo: Nightfall’s Second Stories, Halo Legendary Crate data drops, the Forerunner Trilogy… those are just a few of the diverse sources from which connective tissues are drawn and woven into the tapestry of Renegades. Rest assured, we're planning to do a follow up issue down the road that directly explores and highlights some of these connections further, but for now we’ll let you dive in, devour, and discuss with each other at a more leisurely pace to ensure that you have time to remain unspoiled.
If you haven’t ordered yours yet, you can grab your copy today. Or, if you’re more interested in the aural experience, check out this audiobook excerpt below!
But hey, you don’t have to take my word for it. Or Levar Burton’s for that matter, as book discussions on both the Halo and HaloStory subreddits (beware of spoilers) have been filled with fans professing their love and discussing details to extremely positive lengths. And if you’re looking for some community-sourced non-spoiler reviews to help you pull the trigger on picking up the title, you can check out a written review by haruspis here, or a video preview on the Halo Canon YouTube channel below.
Semi-related, on last week’s 343 Social Stream, yours truly returned to his old on-screen stomping grounds to join our own snickerdoodle and wax poetic about the aforementioned Halo: Renegades, as well as catch folks up to what’s been going on in Halo Franchise Team land. Spoilers: a whole bunch. If you missed the episode when it was live, or just simply wanted to relive a blood-boiling betrayal at the climax of an epic mission while playing Halo 4: Spartan Ops, then make sure you catch the VOD right here. In fact, you're definitely gonna want to go back and watch it in order to understand the full gravity of the Spartan "teammate" we came to know as "R.D.," who provided a bevy of levity when taking the meaning of "Sieze the Power" to a whole new level.
R.D.'s antics inspired us to imagine what his character bio might look like if his efforts were considered more "official." The result of those maddened musings most definitely isn't...
Fresh out of the final stages of training, newly-minted Spartan-IV R.D. Verrat found himself in an harrowing situation when the Pelican carrying he and the rest of Fireteam Forest was shot down over the inner surface of Requiem. Their attempts at securing the local Apex site were made immediately more complicated by the additional task of providing support for Fireteam Crimson as they tried to secure a Covenant power core by stealing it from a Lich.
Following a protracted groundside battle that saw R.D. display an incredible penchant for proving wrong the notion of “high-percentage shots” while wielding a seemingly unwieldy SPNKr rocket launcher, Crimson and Forest successfully boarded the enemy craft. After procuring the power core through deft skill and pristine planning, the mission took an unforeseen turn when R.D. commandeered the squad’s Warthog while still in the Lich’s entry bay, a maverick move of strategic indifference that still confounds the Infinity’s command.
While the true nature of the events on Requiem that day are largely shrouded in tall tales and black ink, one thing is for certain: the universe bore witness to a Spartan who proved as equal a threat to his own kind as to the Covenant themselves.
MORE TO DISCOVER
Anyway, turning our attention back to heroes who actually look out for their teammates, last week we released new details on the upcoming travelling fan experience, Halo: Outpost Discovery. In our first masterfully monikered “Discovery Dispatch,” we offered initial details on two key characters that you might be lucky enough to meet patrolling the event grounds later this summer, Spartan-IIIs Owen-B096 (JFO) and Hazel-A302 (RECON) – the former of which many of you were already introduced to earlier this year with the release of Halo: Battle Born, a YA-categorized novel by genre veteran Cassandra Rose Clarke.
Definitely check out the aforementioned feature for further context and details, but for our purposes, let’s review some of the background of these two heroes.
Spartan Owen volunteered for the SPARTAN-III program shortly after his home world was destroyed by the Covenant. An exceptional candidate, his tenacity and single-minded focus allowed him to grind his way through the punishing training and augmentation cycle to reach the top honors program.
Detached from the rest of his Beta Company comrades for special assignment, he soon applied his lethal talents in the ultimately futile defense of Meridian and scorched-earth holding actions in the Sol System that will never be publicized or known to the wider UNSC.
An exceptional athlete and student even before recruitment, Hazel's innate physical capabilities were greatly enhanced by Spartan augmentations and her scholarly abilities bent towards learning the many arts of war.
Her talents led to her assignment as an ONI “headhunter,” conducting direct action operations against Covenant leaders on occupied planets and destroying critical UNSC information that had fallen into enemy hands.
As always, make sure you hit up HaloOutpostDiscovery.com and follow @HaloOutpost on Twitter for the latest official news and ticket information for the Halo: Outpost Discovery summer experience. Hope to see you out at one – I would imagine fans of this feature in particular will love checking out the various lore-related content we've got in store.
THAT'S HOWL YOU DO IT
If you haven't been following the latest Halo comic, you're missing out on an awesome chapter in the legacy of a legendary sharpshooter. Fans of Linda-058 should definitely be tuning in, as the Blue Team sniper finds herself in a scenario that's let us explore the Spartan-II in a newer light.
Sent on a lone wolf mission to Sephune III with the aid of a UNSC AI named Athos, Linda-058 has orders to handle the potential threat posed by a wanted scientist. Thought lost with the UNSC Promise of Dawn, Dr. Chen Bax posed a significant security risk that the Office of Naval Intelligence wanted cleaned up – a priority made even more urgent when it's found that Chen is in possession of a vital AI matrix that had also been thought lost with the Promise.
Events transpire that require the Blue Team veteran to think quick and act even faster, all while adapting to ever-changing mission parameters as the safety of an entire colony of survivors gets added to the mix.
Next week you’ll be able to get your hands-on Halo: Lone Wolf issue #3, the penultimate issue in the mini-series. Here’s the setup:
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.
Also, the hardcover trade collection is now available for pre-order, and will offer a few extra little insights similar to what we did with the same edition of the Halo: Collateral Damage series.
OUT HERE IN THE FIELD
Not too awful long ago, we partnered with our friends at Scholastic to release Halo: The Official Spartan Field Manual, penned primarily by my good buddy and Franchise fireteam deskmate Kenneth Peters. While Ken and I are actually trying to find some time in the near future to do a deeper dive into the book’s production – similar to what we did with Halo: Warfleet – we did want to take some time today to provide you with a couple of images from the book (from our own Josh Kao) in a more unfettered format, letting you see more than just what the final crops contained. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?
A rare moment of respite for a Spartan fireteam – one still spent caring for their tools of the trade.
Clad in their customized Mjolnir powered assault armor, Spartans are prepared to deploy into hostile environments at a moment's notice.
While features like the one you are reading are certainly often helpful accompaniments to any Halo fan’s experience the finer points of story and lore, there’s another incredibly important part of the process – YOU. The community itself is a wellspring of passion and dedication, full of folks willing to help crowdsource the collection and curation of the seemingly unending supply of new info and insights. There’s perhaps no better example of that than the dedicated wiki writers who help literally catalogue thousands upon thousands of various elements found within Halo’s canon landscape.
Recently, the fine folks over at Halopedia.org announced that they were joining forces with the equally dedicated canon-curious from the “Halo Nation” wiki, combining to make one consolidated source for community-curated canon concerns. We wish the new endeavor the best of luck and encourage interested archivists to check out their site and see how they can get involved with helping keep up with Halo’s ever-expanding universe! Plus, be sure to follow them on Twitter @Halopedia for fun features like their “Lore Thursdays" and make time to check out their brand new forums as well!
And speaking of awesome fan content, I recently ran back across an article by Brendan “Lor” Lowry that I hadn’t quite had the chance to finish when it was originally published, but love the attention to detail and perspective it aimed to provide on the continuing evolution of Sangheili society. Check it out for yourself here.
Before we close, I thought it would be a tragedy to go through the entirety of Issue 104 and not mention one of the most legendary Spartans in the franchise, Blue Team’s own Fred-104. And rather than just drone on myself about why I think he’s awesome, I actually thought it would be more fun to turn to the biggest Frednatic I know, GrimBrother IV, in order to provide some promotional prose to celebrate the CENTURION-clad hero. Take it away, bro…
Today, we are talking about a Spartan. But not just any Spartan. The best Spartan.
“Another article about the Master Chief?” I hear you say.
But it not the Master Chief, then who? Super-secret agent Locke? Nope. Hyper-lethal lone wolf Noble-6? Wrong again.
We are talking about the man, the myth, the absolute unit, Fred-104. Now you may be thinking that Fred is just another Spartan-II, a supporting character. Allow me to hit you with a Mjolnir-wrapped reality check.
Literally every time Fred is mentioned in the expanded lore, it is to talk about what an absolute legend he is. In Spartan boot camp, John notices that Fred came in second place at almost everything, but the Chief can see that it’s just because Fred doesn’t like the attention of coming in first. My dude HELD BACK in Spartan School just so he wouldn’t be showered by constant, well-deserved praise. Master chief describes him as the best spotter and second-best shooter – and let me remind you that is second only to teammate Linda, the person who snipes elites out of banshees hanging from a tightrope upside-down. But you want to know how Fred prefers to fight? By literally bringing a knife to a gunfight.
He is a natural leader, beloved and respected by his subordinates, and a brilliant strategist, relying on both instincts and intellect. Whenever John needs to put someone in charge, guess who it is? Fred. Whenever there are two missions, guess who volunteers for the one that sucks more? FRED. Because he’s just that kind of guy.
And while we haven’t gotten a clear look at the Chief’s face recently, we can probably assume, not a looker. Our man Fred on the other hand? His good looks are mentioned on more than one occasion, and that voice, come on! Easily on par with the pipes of our beloved Master Chief.
Also, did I forget to mention that at the time of Halo 5, Lieutenant Junior Grade Fred-104 is the SENIOR OFFICER on blue team? That’s right folks, you’re looking at Master Chief’s boss. But even then, he steps aside and lets Chief have the spotlight.
So for this specially-numbered occasion, join me in raising a glass for our brilliant boy, Blue-3.
That was fun – in fact, it might be neat to get some more community takes on what they love about the Halo universe in the near future...
And with that, we find ourselves at the end of today’s little adventure. Thanks as always for joining us – it always means a lot when folks profess excitement at the provision of another story-steeped salvo.
Until next time… Live well, play Halo, and read Renegades.