Echo by Terry Moore is a page-turner and tells the story of how good technology gets turned into a weapon. The overall comic book series is suspenseful and reads fast even though the book is a long volume that comes in an omnibus edition. However, the story takes second place to engaging characterization, both in terms of Moore’s writing and his art. As a result, Moore creates a pleasant tension in pacing: The suspense makes you want to turn the pages quickly, but the many close-up views of women and the subtle depiction of their emotions makes you want to stop panel by panel, taking the time to study the expressions conveyed through Moore’s art.
The story opens with Annie, a genius hired right out of grad school, flying high in the air testing a newly designed “beta-suit” owned by a company that is working with the U.S. military. The beta-suit covers the entire body in what looks like liquid silver. Annie, who designed the suit, flies quickly through the air with a jetpack strapped on her back. Their final tests — of which Annie is unaware — involve airplanes launching missiles at her and purposefully shooting her out of the sky. So, the comic literary starts with a bang. The fallout from this explosion introduces us to our main character, Julie, who was standing out in the open under the explosion. The beta-suit mysteriously rains out of the sky and attaches itself to a very frightened and confused Julie who is granted some new and fantastic powers from wearing even a partial suit.
At this point, the story kicks in and complications multiply: The company hires Ivy, a strong and tough woman, to hunt down Julie, who is now on the run with Dillon, a man willing to help her escape (he was Annie’s fiancé). They, in turn, are helped by a group of bikers who are suspicious of the government to begin with. To make matters worse, Annie is also being hunted down by the only other person who had part of the beta-suit rain down on him, a man calling himself “Cain.” Part of what makes the chase so much fun to watch is that everyone repeatedly catches up with Annie, but she escapes every time because her beta-suit, to which she is bonded at the deepest of levels, reacts violently to even the merest hint of threat with power greater than the threat presented. So, when an angry man touches her arm, he’s going to get quite a shock! A bunch of trigger-happy soldiers shooting at her? They are going to get blown away from her and badly injured if not killed.
I love Terry Moore’s work, as do most his fans, because of his female characters. He presents women realistically without sexualizing them (accept in romantic moments when it’s appropriate, of course). For example, the main character has a shiny skin-tight breastplate that keeps destroying her shirts, which makes sense given the story, but Moore seems to do this on purpose just to show that it can be done without it being a sexualized image. His lead character is frightened and not as tough right away as the woman hunting her down, but she strengthens as a person throughout the story. She rises to the challenges before her. Her opposite, Ivy, who is hunting her down, might be an even more interesting character because she is the one faced with a real ethical dilemma. Should she keep working for this corrupt company of scientists gone mad? We think she is bad, and then we are shown her vulnerable side, but only momentarily. It keeps us in suspense: Is she as unethical and as dangerous as the men she works for? The variety of emotions and facets of her character are perhaps the most interesting in the series.
Whether you come to Echo because you want to read a fun, fast futuristic story about the dangers of weaponized technology (or ethics in science) or because you want to read a story made up of strong female characters who are not sexualized simply because they are women, you will be pleased with this comic book. Terry Moore is one of the greatest writer-artists working in comics today, certainly in the top five of those who write fiction, and Echo is as brilliant as his other three series. It also holds up to multiple readings. This is my third or fourth time reading the Echo in the past few years.