Wildlife photographer Julie Martin witnesses an explosion while out in the desert near Moon Lake. Liquid metal rains down from the sky, some of which lands on her skin, fusing there permanently. (Or so it seems.) Unknown to Julie but known to the reader, the explosion (and the metal) was the result of a military experiment gone wrong.
The military soon discovers Julie’s presence, however, and sets out to reclaim their property, as well as any evidence of its existence. Now being hunted, Julie goes on the run, desperate to find out what is happening to her and what they were trying to cover up.
Echo is the second ongoing series from independent comics writer, artist and publisher, Terry Moore. He writes and draws Echo and is perhaps most well known for his long running series Strangers in Paradise (SiP) which ran for 90 issues over the course of a decade. Echo is quite a departure from SiP, although it does contain Moore’s trademarks of excellent characterisation, realistically drawn women, and beautiful artwork. Echo was also designed to be a much faster paced series than SiP, planned to conclude after 30 issues, with every single issue structured like a TV episode. The final issue hits shelves in the last month and already Terry Moore is hard at work on his next series, Rachel Rising, a horror inspired graphic story.
Echo is set in the real world with a small hint of science fiction, but calling it SF might be too strong a label, as elements of the technology being featured could very well exist in a few years. The liquid metal that bonds to Julie turns out to be a prototype battle suit that the military were testing. Julie has no way of getting it off, and an attempt by the first doctor Julie sees results in a nasty shock for the doc. This defense reaction is only the first of many powers Julie starts exhibiting because of the metal.
As the military scrabble around and call in a troubleshooter to make the problem go away, we discover that Julie was not the only person in the desert that day. Someone else has part of the battle suit bonded to them and his motives are far less pure and innocent than Julie’s. He wants the rest of it and the only way to get it is by killing Julie.
This is only the beginning of a fast paced action story full of realistic characters. Julie is a normal woman struggling with a number of problems, such as paying the bills and being in the middle of a divorce, when this problem lands on her, quite literally. She is not an action hero and how she and other characters around her respond is probably what any of us would do, which helps make the story feel more real. At first, all she is trying to do is survive and later Julie faces the difficult choice of continuing to run or turning back and trying to unravel the mystery of what actually happened. It’s easy to say that we would stand and fight, but when the odds are stacked against you and your life is at risk, it’s a lot harder than you might imagine.
The story is mix of several genres including espionage and adventure, and while there is a lot of chase scenes and action, it’s very much about the people involved in the story. From Annie, the battle suit’s creator, to Dillon her boyfriend, to Julie, the hapless witness, to Ivy, the troubleshooter, all of them are wonderfully rounded individuals. No character is pure evil, even those working against Julie and her allies, and we catch glimpses of their personal lives and the impact their choices have had on friends and family. Echo features several very determined people, cutting edge scientists and others who want to be the best in their chosen field, and the result of putting career ahead of everything else is not ignored.
As mentioned, Terry Moore is also the artist on the comic and one of the most interesting features about his art style is that every character is distinct and they all look like real people. From the waitress in the diner with the pierced lip to the bored looking gas station clerk to the chubby bearded bartender, each is someone you could pass in the street and you’d never mistake one for the other.
Describing Echo to someone is a lot easier than Strangers in Paradise, which is probably one of the reasons that the movie rights to Echo were optioned by Lloyd Levin, the producer of Hellboy and Watchmen. So, we might be seeing Julie and the others in the big screen in a few years time, but in the meantime I would recommend picking up Echo as it is an outstanding comic series with incredibly expressive artwork.