Ekho returns to London for a blockbuster album filled with inventive scenery, pseudo-cameos of musical figures, and a great mystery that can only be solved by — well, that would be a spoiler, wouldn’t it? But you can probably guess it… Yes, the World’s Greatest Detective.
No, not Batman.
Tea and Credits
Writer: Christophe Arleston
Artist: Alessandro Barbucci
Colorist: Nolwenn Lebreton
Translator: Studio Charon
Letterers: Studio Charon
Published by: Delcourt/Soleil
Number of Pages: 49
Original Publication: 2018
Trouble In Ye Olde London Towne
Fourmille and Yuri have been called back to London for a meeting with an important person. They’re needed to help solve a growing crisis in town: a tea shortage.
Yes, this is a story done in 2018 that deals with a supply shortage of a popular product and the great lengths that every part of the supply chain will go to in order to fix the issue. It’s a little different from what’s going on today, though. In Christophe Arleston’s script, the tea is making it into the docks, but then disappearing overnight before anyone can distribute it out.
As you may remember from earlier albums in this series, without tea, the Preshauns change into a very monstrous form. (See the first album for the best examples of this.) This is something they work very hard at keeping secret.
Now, in London, the shortages are getting so bad that preshauns are losing it in the streets and turning into monsters. This can’t keep happening; their secret transformations must be maintained.
To figure out what’s going on, Yuri poses as an insurance investigator who gets involved at the docks to see what’s going on. Fourmille is his assistant, but she ends up splitting off to follow a group of squatters who are musicians and bear suspiciously similar looks to the likes of David Bowie, Twiggy, and others. If you like British rock and culture from the 1970s, you’re going to like this book. Yes, there’s even a Beatles appearance (of sorts) in it.
Meanwhile, Yuri plants himself at the docks with the latest load coming in. He wants to witness what is happening for himself and see if he can figure out the secret of the Suddenly Missing Tea.
The devil is in the details on this one and they’re all great. I loved this outing for the series. It’s a nice little mystery book that uses all of the mythology established for the series to its benefit. The preshauns are cute and always a lot of fun.
You’re not going to get the big mystery about the dead person who inhabits Fourmille’s body in this one, nor the “WIll They or Won’t They?” tension between Yuri and Fourmille. That’s OK; it’s good to go off-model once in a while so you can truly enjoy the usual routine once more later.
A Visual Guide to London
There are a lot of great set pieces and moments in this book that are fun to stare at. Alessandro Barbucci always excels at drawing well-known cities in these non-electric configurations. He outdoes himself in this book, once more. From Piccadilly Circus to The Tube to Big Ben, his detailed locations are just as good as the beautiful women he’s also well known for drawing.
The opening half-page panel of Piccadilly Circus starts the book off with a bang. You can look deeper and deeper into that image and find more stuff to be impressed by.
The “It’s Alcohol Time” sign is accompanied by a giant hourglass, since there are no clocks in this world.
The fonts used in all of the signs evoke a feeling of something that’s at least 100 years old. There are a couple of preshaun references on the buildings in the background.
The bus is being carried on the back of a snail. Cars are carried by giant insects whose legs pop out through the tire wells.
When they arrive at the house they’re in London to visit, the butler (named Jeeves, naturally), welcomes them in and invites them to slide down the laundry chute (maybe a coal chute?) to get to their meeting.
So begins a rollicking fun ride that crosses bits of “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”‘s mine cart ride with some “Harry Potter” references that are so obvious that even Fourmille comments on them.
It ends with a spectacular view of an office in the heart of Big Ben. This could be a simple meeting with a dramatic room involved, but Arleston and Barbucci add a couple pages and make it something more memorable and imaginative.
When Fourmille is chasing down the Squatters, she goes for a ride on The Tube. How does the Tube run? Well, it’s pulled by wires that are put in motion by an elephant walking in a giant hamster wheel. Of course!
Check out that angle that Barbucci picks to set the scene here. It’s perfect. It’s wide enough and set far back enough for the reader to see everything. It’s not just the construction of The Tube, but also where Fourmille is standing in relation to it in a way that makes sense and looks right. He spares no expense with the detail, either, including the tiled walls and the lines of people waiting to get in.
It’s all of these small touches that take a relatively simple story and make for a visually captivating book that you’ll want to read over and over again. Luckily, I usually wind up reading a book two or three times when I’m reviewing it, so this has been a fun one.
The Colors of Ekho
I need to point out Nolwenn Lebreton’s coloring on the book, as well. She matches Barbucci’s art beautifully. It’s mostly rustic coloring, but the values and the pops of color clarify some very busy pages and make every panel look great.
It’s not splashy work. If anything, it’s understated, but that fits this whole new world the series is set in. Things get very dark very early when you can’t have things like light bulbs. Light sources, in fact, are super important to the world in this book. Lebreton chooses logical ones with the right amount of power to keep everything looking right to the reader’s eye.
This is a book I’m glad I’m reading digitally. I love these colors, but I fear that in print they’d get too absorbed in the fibers of the paper and turn everything too dark. That inevitably happens in North America where publishers cheap out on paper stock and don’t get the color settings right for that.
But here, digitally in their purest form, Lebreton’s colors stand out strongly and help to define the visuals of the series. I can’t imagine anyone else tackling these pages.
Just look at the colorwork inside the office of the Big Ben tower (above). It’s a bright day, so the sunlight streams in with a nice orange/yellow glow. The window-like clock faces are the brightest things. The floor is colored on a gradient so that it’s the brightest at the top with all the windows, but then descends into a deeper orange at the other end where there isn’t a window letting as much light in. It’s broad daylight, so a yellow/orange light makes a lot of sense.
The close columns are given a dark color to set them apart from the scene, as are the gears for the clock hanging off the ceiling. Characters have small shadows. Even the desk is darkest facing away from the third window/clock on the black wall.
There are a lot of little details here, yet it’s a generally simple design that’s well thought out, preserves the art, and makes for an easily readable panel.
(Fun fact: The Big Ben tower was designed by another Augie! His name was Augustus Pugin.)
Absolutely, yes, if you’ve been following this series. If you’re new to the book, do go back and start with volume 1. This one builds on the first six books in small ways, but everything will be much clearer to you if you follow the story as it develops.
If you don’t want to take my advice, the first page of every album is a quick introduction to the world and the main characters. You’ll be covered.
As someone who’s been reading it from the start, though, I found this book completely satisfying and a visual wonder. Definitely recommended. For $4.99, it’s a steal.
Buy It Now
Sadly, Ekho is only available in English on Amazon. Izneo only has the French edition. It’s very hit and miss with Soleil comics, and this is one of the casualties of their decisions. I can’t believe there isn’t an English language print edition of this book by now, either.