Previously, in Ekho…
Volume 2: Ekho’s Parisian Plot
In the second volume of the “Ekho” series, Fourmille and Yuri head back to their native France to honor a contract Fourmille’s friend and client, Grace, has at a show in Paris. While there, Fourmille channels the spirit of the Emperor’s son. He died in a tragic traffic accident ripped straight out of the Princess Diana headlines. (Even without internal combustion engines, traffic wrecks inside of tunnels can still be fatal.)
With the “origin story” established and out of the way from the first volume, Christophe Arleston and Alessandro Barbucci can get on with telling the stories this framework is meant to support.
Setting each volume in a new city also gives them a new chance for Barbucci to build more worlds and give us more of his take on what the Ekho version of major attactions might look like. In this one, the Eiffel Tower (now made of wood) becomes not just a cultural touchstone, but also a plot point.
Have I mentioned yet how unbelievably gorgeous the artwork of Alessandro Barbucci is? It’s Disney-esque in all the best possible ways. And then it’s Schuiten-esque in its backgrounds.
I have the feeling I might be repeating myself about that throughout these reviews…
Colorist Nolwenn Lebreton gives this book a terrific bright look with all the right bits of texture thrown in. There’s a consistency to the color scheme that’s great. We’re not getting a new cast light color in every scene, or sudden surrealistic color choices. Lebreton keeps this book looking real, respecting the sun’s position in the sky and letting the shadows fall where they may.
It’s not a simple coloring job, either. Barbucci puts an awful lot of detail on every page. He crams the panels with smaller people and more detailed backgrounds. He separates the locations with different coloring schemes (from earth tones and oranges to sudden shocking purples and blues) without making a spectacle of it. The more I look at these pages, the more impressed I am about how he left no square inch left behind. His level of detail in the coloring matches Barbucci’s in the art.
Anthropomorphic Steampunk “Murder, She Wrote?”
Now two volumes in, you can see what the format will likely be for the stories in this series. (I haven’t read past this volume yet, as I write this review. I could prove myself wrong immediately by page two of the third volume after I publish this. It would be just my luck.)
The ‘formula’ is this: Fourmille travels to a new city for her talent agency business (that she inherited from her late Ekho aunt) and comes across a scene where someone died. She changes her hair, becoming possessed by that person. She doesn’t revert to her normal self permanently until she catches the murderer.
That plot in the first volume felt like an afterthought because it had to be worked in while Barbucci and Arleston created the new world and established its rules. With this volume, it becomes the whole point of the book. That gives the album more purpose/focus and momentum.
The romantic tension between Fourmille and Yuri continues to be brought up, but it’s still not entirely believable that it is likely, or that it could ever happen. As these stories go on and the two are forced to work together more, I can start to see it happening. I’m just not buying it yet.
That situation is forced in this issue in a very serious manner, and they still avoid it. I actually appreciated that turn in the story. It shows that Arleston knows he hasn’t earned that character moment yet. More has to happen. The characters need to groow yo a ke
A Lot Does Happen
There’s the near slapstick potential of Yuri becoming dancer in a Parisian night club. You have the high crimes and political chicanery of the murder in this volume. There’s also the on-going meta mystery of the talking squirrels trying to maintain balance in a world where an extra person came to Ekho.
There are big set pieces, including a chase through the streets with slow moving dinosaur-type creatures acting as the cars. There’s a whole set piece inside the Eiffel Tower. Then, there’s a break-out from jail. They follow that with a chase in the sky between flying dragons, over the city of Paris. There’s little time to rest.
It all culminates in the grand finale at the Moulin Rouge. The dancers and the government officials are at odds with each other. Terrorists and transforming squirrels run loose. And a particularly nasty little dog jumps into action. It’s just what you want in a story like this: Push the players to the extremes, bring them all together, and let it fly.
As a single volume story, this one builds to its crescendo nicely, and offers a spectacular exit, with all the major plot lines resolved. Only the overall story arc regarding the energies lost to the universe when Yuri came through remain.
It’s a fun ride, and just what I want to see in the book: Animated acting, a new city, and Barbucci’s amazing artwork.
A Note on Comic Book Acting
The one thing this personality change in Fourmille shows us is the importance of a comic book artist’s ability to “act” with their pencil.
When Fourmille becomes a new person, it’s not just her hairstyle that changes. It’s her entire body language and facial expressions. Her face remolds itself into the possessor’s. It’s still her, but with a couple subtle variations to bring her closer to the dead’s. It’s a whole new character inhabiting that body.
Given the situation, she’s usually much angrier, too. Being murdered would tend to do that to a person, I’d guess.
When you read one of these volumes — and I do hope you do — pay close attention to her normal demeanor versus how possession changes her.
Yes. If you liked the first one, you’ll like this one. I enjoyed it even more than the first, perhaps because the “origin story” is out of the way.
You might even be able to read this one first, out of order. There is a text page before the story starts that explains who the characters are and how they got here, so I don’t think you would be too lost. Still, I always recommend starting at the beginning.
You would, however, miss references like this call back to the Preshaun’s love of tea in the first volume and why Yuri wouldn’t quite remember it.
(This is Pipeline BD 100 review #27.)