Halo: Combat Evolved isn't afraid to reveal its influences. In fact, just glancing over a synopsis on the back of the box reads like a hodgepodge science fiction's greatest achievements. The Halo ring, for example, is quite clearly inspired by Larry Niven's Ringworld series. The cunning, fearsome Elites feature split-jaws not at all dissimilar to the clicking mandibles of Predator's titular villain.
And then we have Sergeant Johnson, standing in the plasma-strobed fog of his own cigar smoke, grinning and poised to utter a clench-jawed one liner. His likeness to Aliens' Sergeant Apone is so striking it verges on plagiarism. But we don't care. Because we love him. Here's why.
Listen Up, All You Greenhorns!
We're first introduced to Sergeant Major Avery Junior Johnson in the opening cinema to Combat Evolved, where he's rallying a marine platoon for an imminent battle with the Covenant in a scene ripped straight from Aliens. Johnson strikes us as a stoic, courageous leader not fazed by the threat of the Covenant breaching his ship, instilling a calm fury in his men for bloodshed ahead.
Johnson isn't then seen until the fantastic level, 343 Guilty Spark. We don't actually meet him, but we witness his apparent demise through the retrieved helmet of Private Jenkins, where his on-board camera captured events unfold inside the mysterious Forerunner facility. Johnson was accompanying Captain Keyes and his men inside the facility, stumbling on the mangled remains of a Covenant force. They're then overrun by a parasitic life-form, the Flood, with a dozen or so carriers swarming over the dear Sergeant's writhing body.
And We Had To Share The Rock!
But he survived! Thanks to a rare condition known as Boren's Syndrome, Johnson was immune to the Flood virus and managed to escape the self-destructing ring as chronicled in the Halo Graphic Novel. You're reacquainted with him at the beginning of Halo 2 aboard the Cairo space-station orbiting Earth, as he escorts the Master Chief to a ceremony to award their bravery. Only the Covenant arrive to spoil the show. Boo!
Johnson steps up with a major role in Halo 2 and 3. Not content with aiding a super-soldier, he also helps Covenant defector, the Arbiter, in taking down Tartarus and avoiding a mass, galactic-wide genocide. He's actually quite fantastic in Halo 2, his pockets stuffed not only with ammunition and grenades, but a never-ending string of quips and quotes.
Send Me Out... With A Bang
However, he met a cruel end on the half-built ring in Halo 3. Zapped by an enraged 343 Guilty Spark, Johnson drops to the floor, passing the Chief a Spartan Laser and uttering his last words. It wasn't sad, it wasn't befitting. It was a poor attempt at instilling some drama in the series, and at the expense of perhaps its greatest supporting character.
But Johnson wasn't finished. First, he wrote a novel! Well, Joseph Staten, plot guru at Bungie, penned Contact Harvest, which chronicled the early stages of our war with the Covenant and Johnson's wet-behind-the-ears excursions. Then he popped up in ODST, the surprisingly good spin-off, but only as an unlockable Firefight character. Although it was worth it to hear the old guy's gruff delivery, one more time...
What did you think of Sergeant Johnson? Archetype or stereotype? Friend or foe? As always, sign off in the comments section below!