Echoes is a book that looks to have begun from a short story. The writing and illustrations are solid, if not quite unique, and the story flows smoothly. If at times it felt like it could have been even shorter, that perhaps is a quibble from an otherwise decent graphic novel. Admittedly, Echoes isn’t something that will stick with me in another week but I did enjoy the experience while reading it. Certainly, we need more stories with antiheroes and a bit of redemption in them.
Story: Fred Martin is a bitter and unhappy man. His mother died when he was very young and he was passed from foster home to foster home. Now, 30 years after her death and still alone, he has no kind word for anyone and goes about his business of flying charter planes to remote areas. But when he hardheadedly ignores warnings not to take his plane out into a storm, he awakes from a plane crash to find he is back in the past – his past. Worse, it is the week everything changed for him, when he tried to stop his mother’s boyfriend from beating her and instead caused her death. Now, armed with knowledge he did not have as a little boy, he sets out to wrong the rights and rewrite his life story.
Again, this isn’t a book to expect some big plot twist at the end. The book is more about the journey than it is the result. So while we can guess what is going to happen, it is still fascinating to see the lead up to how we get there. Because the story is fairly simplistic, there does seem to be a lot of filler and that the plot could have wrapped up in half the space. Subplots of the people who aid the unpleasant Fred as well as the FBI hunting him down for ‘counterfeiting’ currency that is 30 years in the future, are not as interesting as the scenes of Fred confronting his mother. We see as Fred does the beginnings of the abuse and his mother’s inability to separate herself from it. As well, it is interesting to have the perspectives of those who also see but do not act on the abuse.
I admit, I would have liked to see Fred given a different perspective on the abuse when he goes back. But there are no new insights other than that he knows what all the signs of abuse are leading up to – and the horrible repercussions for his young self. But the pathos in the scenes with his mother and little Fred are extremely well written and well illustrated and make up for some of the lack of originality/creativity.
The illustration work is clean, nicely detailed, and the cover is a good representation of what you will find inside. As with the plot, there’s nothing particularly unique or distinct about the illustration work; but it carries the story nicely and the time/place of the 1980s is well captured.
In all, I enjoyed Echoes. Fred is an interesting anti-hero, all bitterness and bile. In coming to terms with his past, he gets a chance to finally go beyond all that unhappiness and maybe even move on. One can’t help but think there is a bit of magical realism, atonement, or purgatory-like experience rather than a magical storm that throws him back to the most pivotal moment of his life. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.