I think my biggest problem with comic book horror is illustrated by a series I read recently called Rowan’s Ruin. There was nothing genuinely horrifying about it. It dealt with the supernatural, has a reasonably decent-ish story, but didn’t really have enough meat on its bones to make my insides go cold.
Providing a remarkable counterpoint, is the incredibly meaty Echoes, which isn’t just a great horror comic – it’s a brilliant comic, period.
There’s virtually nothing I did not like about this book. I’ve said before that I’m someone who can very easily read all the words on a page and forget that the art is actually there, but Rahsan Ekedal makes it damn near impossible to ignore any of the panels that he draws. All black and white, the absence of colour and the way the story’s set out in the first three panels on the first page allows Echoes to sink its hooks in deep.
Brian’s story, his constant battle with schizophrenia, his desperate struggle to hold on to what he believes is real and his reality making it harder and harder to tell fact and fiction apart, make for a stunning read from beginning to end. Joshua Hale Fialkov’s writing makes him a character who’s incredibly easy to sympathise with and, from the very beginning of the story to its soul-wrenching conclusion, you feel for Brian – I did, at least – every step of the way.
You’ll notice that I’m avoiding making references to anything that happens in the story, and that’s deliberate. The story beats are thoughtfully laid out, very well scripted, and wonderfully paced. I read the entire paperback version – all five issues – from beginning to end in a single sitting because the story demanded that I do so.
One thing that hasn’t happened And what kept me, as a reader, almost perpetually off balance, is the fact that the end of the book is hinted at more than once through the course of the story. Problem is, because the story’s told from Brian’s perspective, because of his mental condition, I could never quite tell how much of what I was reading was real and how much was in his head. It is, in my opinion, a masterful way of drawing a reader into a book and is easily one of the smartest executions of a very good idea that I’ve seen in years.
And since this is the trade paperback, which collects all five issues of Echoes, it really is worth adding to a collection – digital or physical. This is horror done right, this is storytelling done right, and it is also incredibly compelling artwork done right – by some remarkably twist of fate, they all happen to be in the same book.
So, to sum this up …
This is not one of those books that you simply read. It is one that will actively reach out, grab you by the throat and the nasty bits, and yank you into each panel, putting you squarely in the middle of the story as it plays out. Easily one of the best comics I’ve read all year.