After an impressive conclusion to his Strangers in Paradise series, Terry Moore has been on a real roll lately, with an engaging run on Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, some good work on Runaways and this book, which is one of the best ongoing titles out there. This issue continues the strong work Moore has established on the previous parts of this story, while also adding a bit more density that previous issues seemed to lack somewhat.
Probably my one complaint about the previous issues of Echo is that it seemed as though the story was not geared towards a serialized format, because not a whole lot happened in each issue and it seemed like the books ended awfully quickly. What we got in each issue was strong stuff, but it just did not seem like we got enough of it.
By the way, I just counted the story pages in this issue - I got 18 story pages. Has that been the case for the previous issues, as well? If so, that might explain my concerns pretty darn well. However, 18 pages can still be plenty of pages to tell a story, and I think Moore does a good job using all of his pages in this issue to deliver a full issue's worth of story.
The basic gist (and I use "basic" very generally, as this is a complicated story) of Echo is that a woman is killed/explodes wearing an experimental suit made up of some sort of futuristic metal. Most of it falls on to another young woman in a desert in Nevada. The metal sticks to her skin and now people are hunting her down over it. The metal reacts to people's aggression, sort of like the slime in Ghostbusters II (how's that for a reference?) and can become quite devastating, like blow up a car-level of power. The woman, Julie, is on the run with the boyfriend of the woman who died wearing the suit who has been trying to find out who is responsible for his girlfriend's death. They're being helped by an anti-government biker gang. They're being tracked by the Army as well as a female operative named Ivy. They're ALSO being followed by some madman who ALSO has a piece of the metal, only he's quite fine with the power it contains, and he's been using it to kill people for a few issues now. Just last issue, he and Julie had a confrontation and a bunch of the bikers were gruesomely murdered in the battle.
In this issue, Moore nicely balances Ivy's interactions with officials getting to the bottom of what it is exactly that she is tracking (which also, of course, fills in us readers) along with the leader of the biker gang finding out about his dead friends as well as having, for the first time, a confrontation (over a phone line) between Ivy and Julie. Ivy works in Julie's sister (who's in a mental health facility) to gain sway over Julie, and Moore beautifully handles Julie's rush of emotions. For years, Moore has been doing this trick with lettering in Strangers in Paradise where he would adjust the letters in the word balloons to match the way each characters was talking - shrinking the letters, going lower case, increasing the size of the letters, all sorts of stuff like that - and he uses all of these tricks to get across the various emotions Julie has while interacting with Ivy. Contrasted with Ivy's cool, calm "I'm playing you" demeanor and it makes for a great scene.
Besides all the action and government conspiracy and whatever, at the heart of Echo is one simple thing - how does a normal person deal with dramatic changes to their life - and Moore has been delivering that extremely well so far.
His art is good, as usual - I really like how his simple, humanistic style lends itself to the more outlandish aspects of the comic, because he is SO grounded that when crazy stuff happens, it stands out even more - we can tell just how crazy it all is because it's being drawn by Moore to BE seen as "wow, that is some crazy stuff going down here!"
The issue ends on a cliffhanger, and Moore really drags as much tension out of that ending as he can - top notch writing there. Unlike some previous issues, I really feel like we got a lot of story in this issue.
Echo, like most great science fiction stories, is about universal ideas that are just dressed up with some lasers and some explosions. It's a very nice comic book series.