Thursday, November 6, 2008

Echo #7

Having followed Strangers in Paradise for the better part of a decade, right up to its conclusion late last year, I’m fairly familiar with Terry Moore’s work. And while the subject matter of Echo is conceptually very different from what he produced with Strangers, its execution is very, very similar. After doing just about everything he could with Katchoo, Francine and friends, Moore is clearly hungry to flex different muscles here. Instead of drama centered on a friendship that can’t tell if it wants to become something more, Echo is more along the lines of a low budget, high concept science fiction movie. I can’t imagine a larger gap between genres.

But while their subject matter may be about as different as they come, the little spots of individuality and charm that shone throughout Strangers in Paradise are also evident during Echo. The new series features the same slow pace and casual dialog that made its predecessor what it was, the tone of the story is very familiar. This is still excellent storytelling, if a bit more sluggish than I’d prefer, but because it’s so close in flavor to what he’d accomplished in the past, I don’t think it provides the kind of clean break and fresh start that Moore (or maybe this reader) was searching for.

There are few in the field who can fill out a cast quite like Terry Moore, and Echo provides further proof towards that case. In Julie, a photographer in the wrong place at the right time, he’s crafted another strong female lead. At work in the desert, Julie inadvertently witnessed the failed test-run of a government funded battle suit, climaxing in a violent explosion that tore the outfit and its pilot into a million pieces. When the shrapnel showers Julie and her truck, it converts to a liquid and adheres to anything it comes into contact with. Despite her best efforts, she can’t scrub the stuff from her skin, and now that the feds know who she is, the chase is on. Julie, her companions, the agents in search of her and everyone in between benefit tremendously from Moore’s skills in this regard. We’ve only just been introduced, but already I know plenty about each of them.

Echo’s artwork is, again, a direct continuation of what was going on in Strangers when it reached its conclusion. When he rewards himself with an active plot and a compelling story to tell, Terry is one of the best at visual storytelling. He benefits from playing dual roles as writer and artist, showing restraint with his narration when a solid panel or two is all the situation requires, and for the most part that helps keep the issue moving at a fairly decent pace. There isn’t a lot of action during this month’s story, but outside of a few dull conversational panels near its conclusion, the artwork does a fine job of keeping its readers engaged.

Echo isn’t the over-arching, years long saga that Strangers was. While its cast has a similar amount of depth, they don’t connect with the readers like the crew of Moore’s previous series did, and the new sci-fi backdrop hasn’t done enough to lift the series up so it can stand on its own. It feels more like a gimmick, something to keep the story from growing too reliant upon the character-driven dialog, and not the focal point that I expected it to be. Maybe that changes as the series picks up speed, but until then I’m going to remain hesitant. Borrow this, it’s good stuff but there’s something missing.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 7

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