April 6, 2010

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Echo Volume 1

Written by Terry Moore
Illustrated by Terry Moore
Abstract Studios

Julie Martin's life is spiraling downward. She's about to lose her marriage and her home, after losing most of her family to a tragedy. She's out taking photos when an earth-shattering kaboom (to coin a phrase) rains metal down on her and everything else in the area.

Before she knows it, she's getting the cyborg treatment and unless she finds help fast, the secret government project at the heart of it all might just solve her problems in a rather permanent manner. With only a cynical park ranger and group of anti-government bikers to help her, can she manage to find a way out this?

I've liked what I've read of Strangers in Paradise, the main work for which Moore is known. I'd been meaning to check this one out, and it got referenced somewhere, so I did.

If you are a rabid fan of Moore's work, this is going to be right up your alley. While this series focuses on super technology instead of the intricacies of political extortion, the signature themes are here. We have an agency that works behind the public's back for its own gain. We have a strong evil female who I'm sure will end up being more than a heavy. Julie is about as directionless as Francine ever was and is just as much at the whim of the rest of the characters, at least for now. There's another woman who looks like she's going to be the Katchoo figure, and Dillon might just as well be called David since he's going to be the link between the two and has a D-name anyway.

If you're getting the subtle hint that I found this work to be too derivative of Strangers in Paradise, you're right on track. Even the looks on the characters' faces and the design of their body shapes is too familiar for my taste. They talk just like everyone in Strangers in Paradise did. While the circumstances may be a bit different, when you boil down the plot, it feels way too close to the other series for its own good.

I know it's hard for a writer to get out of the shadow of his or her best known work, but I think Moore could have tried harder to make this series different. Things like implied drug use or adding a mentally unstable sister don't really help make it different. That's what changing the way you present the story or writing something totally different is for. In Echo, despite the opening, it feels like Moore is doing neither of those things.

The other problem is that there's nothing to hook me here. The most interesting character in my opinion gets killed off in the first chapter. Julie isn't likable at all. I actually found the villains to be more engaging, and I don't think that's what Moore was going for. These five chapters all felt like they were establishing shots, and while that can work fine, I don't have any compelling desire to keep reading, because all I have is the government/business conspiracy story that I've read any number of times before, even from Moore himself.

For me, that's Echo's biggest sin. I really liked the idea the book started with, and had it stayed that action-packed, I'd have liked it a lot better. Strangers in Paradise also had a slow pace, so shaking things up in Echo would have helped a lot. Unfortunately, we're immediately stuck in Julie's uninteresting life for most of this volume, and no matter how many times Moore draws her in a slightly sexy manner, I just didn't care.

Again, if you're really fond of Terry Moore, then you'll be able to get over this. I'd read a Warren Ellis or Fumi Yoshinaga paint by numbers story, because I really like them both and how they write a book. From what I get in the first trade, Echo is Terry Moore doing what he knows best. The art is consistent, his woman are pretty without being unrealistic, and we get the usual standard camera angles that Moore used in Strangers in Paradise. The problem for me is that I read most of Strangers in Paradise already; I don't need to read it again, with less interesting people filling the roles.

If you aren't going to have a very original plot, then you need a character or characters that make me want to see them save the day or fear for their lives. Maybe it was just me (Echo seems to be a critically acclaimed book), but I felt neither. While I'm always interested in seeing new writers and articles tackle a familiar idea, I'm less inclined these days to see the same writer doing the same idea. (After all, I've already had that with Sovereign Seven and Chris Claremont.)

Perhaps it's unfair of me to be comparing Echo to Strangers in Paradise, but damn it, the book itself is titled Echo, and that's what it felt like to me: An echo of another work. I'm sure it has a different meaning in context, but for my reading, I felt like it echoed far too much of what had been instead of what could be. I just wasn't able to let this one rest on its own merits, and that's probably my fault, but I don't think Moore tried hard enough to make this book different.

Because it's at the library, I will try volume two and see if things move off in an other, more exciting direction. But I'm a bit doubtful, based on what I've seen so far. Right now, I'd say to give this series a pass.