Echo is an American comic book independently published by Terry Moore, who is predominantly known for his previous self-published series Strangers in Paradise. Produced under his Abstract Studio imprint, Echo follows the story of Julie Martin, an amateur photographer who witnesses the murder of scientist Annie Trotter during tests of the Beta Suit, an experimental high-tech flight and combat machine that utilizes a newly created alloy produced by the Phi Project. Annie, who had always urged caution during the development of this new alloy, was killed by her superiors in order to pave the way for more aggressive exploitation of the alloy, but the attack (With missiles) also scattered the alloy across several square miles of desert. The subsequent rain of alloy coated the wilderness (And Julie) with tiny pellets of this wonderful (and dangerous) new metal. Julie quickly discovers that she can not remove these pellets from her skin, and they absorb any new pieces of the metal that come into close proximity as they begin to alter both her body and her mind. The series follows Julie, her park ranger acquaintance Dillon (Annie's boyfriend, now looking into her murder) and NSB agent Ivy Raven (Originally assigned to track down all the pieces of the alloy) as they try to figure out what, exactly, this new metal does, and how they can survive/take down the corporate/military conspiracy that is coming for them.
Like most of Terry Moore's works, Echo revolves around a core cast of strong female characters with artwork that focuses on realistic body dimensions, as opposed to statuesque women in skin-tight clothing (although it does have a little bit of that as well). Interpersonal relationships and emotions are a primary focus of the series, despite its action/adventure plot, and readers are kept in suspense as personal and historical information is only revealed as it is brought up in the story, so you never know more than the characters themselves.
The series has concluded with issue #30 and has been collected into trade-paperbacks.
- Vol 1: Moon Lake
- Vol 2: Atomic Dreams
- Vol 3: Desert Run
- Vol 4: Collider
- Vol 5: Black Hole
- Vol 6: The Last Day
There's also a complete edition that collects the entire series in one phone book-sized volume.
- Action Girl: Ivy Raven, secret agent extraordinaire.
- Action Survivor: Julie really has no experience with anything, but she catches up quick.
- Adaptive Armor: The Beta Suit molds itself to its wearer and can cushion against g-forces, emit deadly electrical attacks, cure diseases and even re-write human DNA.
- Apocalypse How: Class-X at a minimum. The full properties of the Phi-project are still being explored, but we know that if a single test-bomb is detonated, or the Arctic collider is activated, there goes the Earth. What we do not know is if the "there goes" part will stop with Earth.
- Applied Phlebotinum: The Phi Project alloy can do...well, everything.
- Artistic License Biology + Artistic License Nuclear Physics: Carbon dating Cain's finger reveals his age as being 25,000 years. Carbon dating is used to test how long it has been since an organism died (or when a piece of organic matter was removed from the source organism), not how long it has existed (the carbon-14 that testers look for is continuously "topped off" by simply living, and this stops at death, beginning the decay that the dating test is looking for). Since he was clearly alive only days earlier, it speaks more to the alloy having weird effects than Cain being very old.
- While on the subject of nuclear physics, if you're talking about protons (a common, well understood sub-atomic particle) having special properties because they came from an alloy (as opposed to from an element or an atom... not that that makes a difference to the proton's properties), well... you may as well be talking about splitting beer atoms with a chisel.
- A scientist equates being covered in plutonium particles to being a walking atom bomb. While plutonium is harmfully radioactive, only the special conditions that produce nuclear fission (like the other explosives in a bomb) would result in a nuclear explosion.
- Awesome Mc Coolname: Ivy Raven
- Axe-Crazy: Cain
- Becoming the Mask: Lieutenant Laura Higgs, formerly a Parker Girl operative named Stephanie who was infiltrating the US military, was trapped in her identity when the operation collapsed. Now she has friends and a life as Laura and asserts that Stephanie is dead. Played with a bit, as she became the mask deliberately, and had little real choice in the matter.
- Black Holes: The goal of the Phi Project, one of them anyway, is to create and sustain an artificial black hole whose power will be harnessed by humanity.
- Bury Your Gays: Jack murders his boyfriend, Ethan in a misguided attempt to prevent him from leaving. Do not worry, Jack gets his, too.
- But for Me, It Was Tuesday: "Y'know, Hong... I've burned so many psychos, kinda hard to tell you guys apart."
- Cain and Abel: The crazed maniac that serves as the direct antagonist for much of the series believes himself to be the Cain, son of Adam and first murderer who has wandered the Earth for thousands of years, and spends most of his time ranting at God.
- Clingy Costume: Julie cannot get the Beta Suit off.
- Clothes Make the Superman: Without the Beta Suit, Jule is just a normal photographer struggling with everyday life.
- Clone by Conversion: Julie very nearly becomes a copy of Annie. The Beta Suit is intended to rewrite its wearer's DNA and adjust their biology only in order to keep them healthy, but if the person wearing the suit isn't the person the suit thinks is wearing it...
- Corporate Conspiracy: The research labs at Henri have plans for the alloy and they are not letting anybody get in their way, all in the pursuit of an advantage over China and a few quick bucks.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive
- Crossover: Ivy begins to suspect that her superiors in Washington might not be as completely trustworthy as she thought, so she decides to make a call to somebody outside the system that will be able to help her peek behind the scenes. The next panel, framed from behind, is apparently Casey getting a phone call. Tambi Baker guest-stars in a later issue, which also features one of the former Parker Girls, and it is revealed that she and Ivy are on a first-name basis.
- Earth-Shattering Kaboom: The Phi project will, if left unchecked, destroy the world. Period. Unlike atomic weapons testing or other theoretical physics experiments it will not require somebody to make a mistake or go "too far," the detonation of even a single test weapon will make the earth go "boom."
- Fanservice: Echo might deviate from the comic norm by drawing women with realistic proportions and clothing, but Julie and Ivy seem to spend more time naked than is truly necessary.
- Form-Fitting Wardrobe: The Beta Suit is literally skin-tight, and seems to be thin enough to see right through it.
- Fountain of Youth: Due to the Phi-Project, as Julie gets bigger (and bigger...and bigger) Ivy is rapidly de-aging. First it is simply superficial, a few inches of lost height and a slimmer waist, but as time goes on she gets younger and younger, until she actually becomes what appears to be an adolescent, maybe even pre-pubescent, child. She finds the entire situation horrifying and disturbing, and even begins to lose her mental faculties and memories of what has happened.
- Gainax Ending: The story's climax is confusingly laid out and narrated, turning virtually every plot "resolution" into a complete enigma. We are left to guess how Annie survived the effects of Foster's weapon, how Dillon, Vijay, and other characters survived, which/how many HeNRI personnel survived (including their Black Ops assassin), and how/why Julie and Ivy returned to some semblance of their correct ages and sizes..
- Girl-on-Girl Is Hot: When Ivy is starting to be seriously disturbed by the changes to her body, particularly that her mind is regressing in addition to her body, she instructs Dillon to not sleep with Julie since that is how the she first began to be changed by the alloy. Dillon is too preoccupied with the implication that they had sex to recognize the importance of other parts of the conversation.
- A God Am I:
Professor Foster: "If our calculations are correct, today we will not only generate a black hole, we will sustain it—and all its immeasurable power—for as long as we like. And that, my friends, will be a miracle. Last century we harnessed the power of the atom—Today we will harness the power of God!"
- Cain does not believe that he is actually God, but he does believe himself to be the Cain. This leads him to assume himself to be immortal and protected from harm by God, and he spends a lot of time having direct conversations with the big one (Whether God talks back is a different question).
- The scientists working on the Phi Project are well aware of the power and impact of the technology, and even the ones advising patience and cautioning against tests are swept up in the possibilities.
- Government Conspiracy: We are still working through the details, but Henri has plans for the alloy and they are not letting anybody get in their way.
- Heroic BSoD: Ivy had more than a few rough spots throughout the series, but when she woke up and did not remember the story she began to break down.Ivy: "I need to know...Julie, I woke up and I couldn't remember..."
Julie: "Remember what?"
Ivy: "Anything! I didn't know where I was, how I got here...I've been telling myself these changes to our bodies are just external but, I don't know. What if it's affecting our minds, too?"
- Hollywood Atheist: Subverted. Ivy instantly dismisses Cain's claim to being the Cain and Julie thinks that she is just arbitrarily making this decision because she does not believe the story, but Ivy then explains that she has given a lot of thought to combining creationism and modern scientific understanding. Even assuming a literal interpretation of the Bible and a humanity that has only existed for a few thousand years, Cain would have to be black, since only common African ancestry for all humanity could account for the current diversity of skin colors after only a few generations. (But, some Christian faiths like Mormonism include a change of ethnicity/skin color as part of Cain's (or Ham's) curse).
- If My Calculations Are Correct
- It Works Better with Bullets: When Tambi Baker ambushes "Laura Higgs" and knocks her onto the nearby bed, she calmly drops to the floor the bullets that she had earlier taken out of Laura's gun.
- Journey to the Center of the Mind: The spirit (Soul? Memory? DNA imprint?) of Annie seems be existing within the Beta Suit/Julie, and many attempts are made to contact her for information and help on dealing with the situation.
- Left Hanging: If Hong is to be believed, at the end of the series the Chinese still have the alloy and the Phi-suit technology.
- Like You Were Dying: As the date of the Collider test approaches various characters take time to prepare for the end. Vijay suggests that Ivy Raven call her daughter while there is still time, and Ivy herself tells Tambi Baker to spend the day of the test itself with someone special.
- Men Are the Expendable Gender: Damn near everyone who dies over the course of the story is male. And there are plenty of deaths, some very gruesome, both for major and minor characters.
- Noodle Incident: That box that Julie seems to value more than her life was never opened where the viewer could see it. Whatever it is makes Rick view her as deviant, and Julie even explains that it is the reason why he left her, and Ivy instantly recognizes it as important.
- Not Quite Back to Normal: The series ends with the effects of the Phi-project removed from Julie and Ivy, but the final page reveals that Annie is still in Julie. And the two leads' relative heights and ages still seem slightly different from their starting points.
- The One Guy: The are many male characters throughout the series, but within the main protagonists there is only Dillon. Vijay does join the trio later on however.
- One Riot, One Ranger: Deconstructed. Ivy finally contacts her superiors and begins to get guidance from her Washington organization, but Julie wonders why they have not sent any support or personnel to help deal with the potentially Apocalyptic scenario. This causes Ivy to begin to think about it and she starts to agree with Julie that this might have some unpleasant implications as to the trustworthiness of her superiors.
- Product Placement: Ivy Raven owns a Blackberry cellular phone and, in one scene, uses it to visit Wikipedia, complete with exact quotations from its article on Cain and Abel.
- Real After All: Cain never displayed any powers or skills beyond what was bestowed on him by the Phi-project and was clearly not immortal, so Ivy rejects out of hand his claim that he was actually the Biblical Cain... at least, until she gets the results of the carbon dating of his finger. The analysis places his age at over 25,000 years!
- Shown Their Work:
- When the characters are being briefed on the history and purpose of the Phi-project, Terry Moore spends quite a bit of time talking about all the different mathematical problems and artistic creations involving phi and its relationship with the universe.
- When Ivy Raven is doing research on the story of Cain and Abel she visits Wikipedia and the comic features verbatim quotations from their article on Cain and Abel.
- The Singularity: It is accepted by most characters that the Phi Project will fundamentally change everything about humanity and society.
- Split-Personality Takeover: Annie is far from malevolent, but as time goes on and the Beta Suit makes more and more changes Julie is beginning to fade away and fears that soon she will be completely gone, replaced by the woman now living within her. She has even begun to sign her name as "Annie Trotter," and she is apparently not even aware that she is doing it. In issue #27 the takeover is complete as, with Ivy's urging, Annie admits that she has been in control for some time now. Issue #30 shows that Annie still exists in some manner in Julie despite the destruction of the suit.
- Statuesque Stunner: The Phi-project is slowly altering Julie's body, making her grow larger and larger until she towers over everybody else in the group. People soon begin to believe that she is an actress or model and refuse to accept that she is not at least somehow a sex icon.
- Stripperific: Julie's coating of alloy is skin-tight and covers only the primary sex organs, and she and Ivy lose the rest of their clothing with relative frequency.
- Take That!: M. Night Shyamalan, have you even seen your last few movies?
- Tap on the Head: Subverted Jack is knocked down with a single punch to the jaw, but in the very next panel he is moving his arms and is pushing himself up in the one after that.
- That Woman Is Dead: "Stephanie's dead. I'm Laura Higgs now."
- Tiny Guy, Huge Girl: Dillon is no smaller than an average man, but with the Phi-project affecting her body Julie begins to steadily grow larger and larger. At first she is simply tall and statuesque, mistaken by a few people as an actress or model, but she continues to grow until she is positively huge. When she and Dillon are lying on the ground head-to-head, his feet only reach her knees.
- Unobtainium: The Phi Project alloy seems to be a discovery that surpasses everything, its impact on humanity (Provided we survive its creation) could potentially be greater than fire or nuclear technology.
- You Have Failed Me: Foster has Jack killed because Jack has "made a mess of things."
- Your Costume Needs Work: Inver...subver...no freakin' clue. The crew take a break at a rest stop and inform the staff that they are there on government work. However, thanks to the body-warping Phi-project, Ivy is too young and Julie is too beautiful to be taken as government employees and Vijay, the new tagalong member of the gang, is Indian. The staff is now convinced they are serving M. Night Shyamalan and a movie crew, despite all claims to the contrary.