Echo (Comic Review)

Echo #2 coverTerry Moore is one of the big names among self-published cartoonists, having worked on Strangers In Paradise since the early 1990’s. But one drawback to writing, illustrating, and publishing your own comic is that you spend all your time focusing on one. Perhaps for that reason, Moore ended Strangers In Paradise in 2007 to begin a new series, Echo. Echo just finished its run as a single 30-issue story, and a new series will be taking its place soon. This is probably the right strategy to pursue in today’s comic market. At the very least, it convinced me to try out his work.

Echo is the story of Julie Martin, who finds pieces of an experimental super-suit raining down on her after they explode during a test flight. This “alloy” fuses itself to her body, and Julie must figure out how to control it while running from unscrupulous government contractors who want their suit back.

This may sound like a typical superhero origin story, but Moore’s comics have always been known for their focus on characters and strong women.This is the primarily the story of Julie herself, as well as her newfound protector Dillon, an agent tracking her down, and even Annie, the woman who had been testing the suit when it blew up.

Distinctive, believable people are Moore’s artistic strength as well. This feels like a human drama throughout, without the stilted clichés of many superhero stories. Body language, expressions, and individual appearances are all varied and support the characters as the comic’s focus. Admittedly, they are a little sexualized (Julie’s skin-tight alloy burns her clothes away when it activates, but it covers her so that she’s not technically naked), but done in the way one would expect from Moore’s reputation for empowered, realistic women. I am confident that this has at least as many female fans as male.

The art itself is black and white (plus a silvery gray for the alloy), with some cross-hatching and filled blacks. The simple inking and lack of color is what allows Moore to produce comics on a near-monthly schedule, and while it does feel a little slight at times, it complements the story. Unfortunately, the story could stand to be a little less slight. Bad guys act with barely more subtlety than Saturday morning cartoon villains, and the pseudo-science behind the alloy involves metaphysics, emotions, and souls. The plot never becomes as interesting as the relationships between the characters, and while it flows well in monthly serialization, some plot threads never feel resolved in retrospect.

Though Echo could be made into a big-budget action movie without much tweaking, the current implementation is definitely aimed at a comic-size niche audience. It needs to be appreciated by someone who cares primarily about the character-driven drama, but enjoys the trappings of a superpowered story. Further, the series does have several scenes of shocking violence that even verge on horror, which most people will find at odds with the light, occasionally comedic, interactions that dominate the story.

Overall, Echo feels like a disposable work by a talented creator capable of doing much more. Whether the demands of the periodical schedule kept Moore from reaching any interesting depths with the story, or whether he just wasn’t interested in more than he created here, this never quite achieved anything memorable. I’ll be watching him in the hopes that he reaches greater heights on his next title, though; At the very least, Moore can guarantee a reliable, timely story. There aren’t many talented comic creators who have chosen to do their own thing outside of the auspices of Marvel and DC, and I’m eager to see what he can accomplish.

Grade: C+

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