Reading this book feels like reading the evolution of Alan Moore as a writer, as if you're watching him mature right there on the page. But, I'm not giving this book 4 stars simply because of its existence as a curiosity. The ideas in here are genuinely fantastic, and the fact that he and Ian Gibson pulled this off with such constraints is remarkable.
This book stands as a collection of the entire run of The Ballad of Halo Jones, a short-form "comic strip" (it's a full-page comic, but is for some reason referred to as a "strip") that Alan Moore and Ian Gibson created for the British sci-fi comic magazine 2000 AD. As such, each chapter of the story, which appeared in a separate issue of 2000 AD, is only about 5 pages long. Therefore, Moore has to simultaneously tell a complete story in those 5 pages, while also establishing a vast space operatic world and its jargon, and focusing on larger character arcs. The fact that it by-and-large worked is frankly a miracle.
I will say, when I was first dropped into the world of Halo Jones, I found it to be pretty overwhelming. The story is broken into three separate "books," each of which tell a fairly complete story on their own. The first book has to do the vast majority of the heavy lifting in terms of world-building, and again, it has 5-page constraints. As such, Moore dumps a LOT of stuff into the first story. We learn that Halo Jones is a relatively normal, unremarkable woman living in a place called "The Hoop," a giant circular housing facility for the unemployed. Everyone speaks in futuristic slang, a lot of which is almost incomprehensible, and day-to-day life in the Hoop is chaotic, otherworldly, and, honestly, under-explored. Add in the fact that Moore alternates between Douglas Adams-esque satire and more serious sci-fi fare, and you're left with a mostly-confusing mess.
But then the second book starts, and I loved it. All of it. Once Moore moves beyond the Hoop in Book Two, and Halo starts adventuring on her own, everything just kind of clicks. All the setup you were fed in Book One, all the subtle references and underlying satire, the motivations of characters you barely had time to pay attention to, it all suddenly makes sense. I don't know how he and Gibson did it, but I was truly amazed at how well everything suddenly fit together. It helps that he moves away from the constant, indecipherable slang, opting to pepper it in occasionally with plenty of context clues, but still. It's a real feat of storytelling.
Then, Book Three hammers it all home. All of the Adamsian satire falls away in favor of much bleaker anti-war fare, and after having two full stories establishing that this vision of the future is pretty dark already, it really feels earned. This feels like Moore coming into his own and taking things a little more seriously, taking a knife to Robert Heinlein's jingoist Starship Troopers in the process.
I highly recommend reading this, if you're a fan of Moore or not. There are tons of ideas in here that feel fresh and interesting even today, thanks in large part to their excellent execution. It's also truly impressive that a comic written for a heavily-male magazine like 2000 AD in the 80s is so packed with female characters. Very few other creators were doing things like this back then, and that's probably part of why it still feels fresh in 2018.