Echo Volume One: Moon Lake
by Terry Moore.
I picked up the first issue of Echo; Terry Moore’s first, post Strangers In Paradise series and put it down as one of those that might be interesting to follow once a collection came out. Well, it seems I was right. When these first 5 issues are read as one tale, the thing works far better; suddenly that slightly bitty first issue becomes just the necessary setup for the modern day slice of sci-fi/adventure/drama he’s trying to tell.
In Echo we’re introduced to Julie Martin; broke, lonely, nearly divorced and has lost her entire family in circumstances yet to be revealed. It’s all quickly laid out in a series of quieter moments, best of which being the visit to see her sister, in a private psychiatric hospital. Moore’s sympathetic portrayal of Julie’s life is the key thing in Echo that he’s hanging all the other sci-fi and fantasy adventure from and as you might expect from the creator of Strangers In Paradise, Moore does it very well.
(A quieter moment when Moore’s gentle characterisation comes to the fore. From Echo by Terry Moore.)
Julie’s life heads even further south when she gets caught up in a secret government project. An explosion in the sky rains strange metal pellets down that bond to her skin, forming a weird armour that starts reacting to threats and is capable of doing as little as taking a disbelieving doctor’s fingernail off or vaporising one of the soldiers trying to take her into custody. This armour is part of some secret government project (the sort that always seems to be going on in isolated American deserts) that was tested to destruction high above the desert. This was bad news for Julie, but even worse for Annie, the unfortunate wearer of the armour at the time.
Along the way, Moore introduces us to the local Park Ranger Dillon, who just happens to be Annie’s boyfriend and ends up on the run from the government with Julie. There’s Lily, a mystery government agent hot on the pair’s trail, shadowy figures of the Phi project desperate to get their suit back at any cost, a gang of bikers who help Julie and Dillon escape and, in a couple of scenes that Moore obviously plans to expand on in later issues; a bum who also has a piece of the suit attached to his hand.
If it all seems rather breathless and scattershot in the summary, that’s because it comes across that way in the reading. It’s one of the big flaws of Echo that characters are just thrown in at will, often with a fair chunk of exposition to go alongside the action. The coincidences that Moore uses to serve his story sometimes get a little too out of hand (what’s that? We’ve only just met and I just happen to be wearing your dead girlfriend’s super mystery government battle suit? What are the odds of that?). There’s the occasional lapse into poor poetic language; something that slipped into Strangers In Paradise more than once. And for the first time ever with Terry Moore the quality of his art slipped occasionally in the latter issues – deadlines can be a pain.
(Coincidence or convenient plot point? From Terry Moore’s Echo.)
But they’re not big enough flaws to kill the book or even significantly reduce the enjoyment. There were flaws with Strangers In Paradise as well when Moore tried to cram as many plotlines as possible into a story that worked best as a beautiful romantic drama. That he’s guilty of loading the story of Echo with a few too many characters and story threads shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Moore’s strength has always been creating semi-realistic, interesting characters and allowing us to live their lives for a little while. So it is in Echo, flaws and all. It’s shaping up to be a good, strong series which will hopefully settle down with time. With Strangers In Paradise Terry Moore was instrumental in showing that a romantic comedy adventure was more capable of holding it’s own on the comic shop shelves – it’s one of those wonderfully mainstream series that pointed us to a way forward in comics sitting perfectly between the traditional superhero comics and the growing art-comic movement of Clowes, Ware et al. Strangers In Paradise was something we could sell in numbers to just about everyone, and we proceeded to do exactly that. Echo might not have the same mass appeal, with some of the sci-fi fantasy elements making it look a little more like a traditional superhero book. But beneath that imagery is an interesting, character driven drama that is well worth your time.