Review - Echoes #1

Mental illness is a malady that is still very much misunderstood by the public at large. When most people hear "schizophrenia" they probably think of a person that hears voices telling them to do evil things. Depression? That's just not being able to get out of bed and function. Often times, these ailments are used incorrectly for the sake of telling a story. When something like Echoes #1 from Minotaur Press (an imprint of Top Cow) comes along and reasonably addresses mental illness I'm pleasantly surprised.

Written by Joshua Hale Fialkov and chillingly illustrated by Rahsan Ekedal (letters by Troy Peteri), Echoes #1 follows Brian Cohn, a man with a lot going on in his life. Not only is his wife giving birth to his first son, his father is also dying and he himself is on multiple medications for schizophrenia. The same schizophrenia his father had that possibly lead him to be a serial killer of epic proportions. It's on his deathbed that Brian's father cryptically confides in him of his crimes, spurring Brian onto what will surely be a dark and twisted journey through his own soul and society's morals in general.

What's so impressive about this book is that it's particularly jarring. You have a man at odds with his father, seeking to make amends before he actually dies. His wife, while supportive, is somewhat patronizing to him about taking his medications. And then Brian himself lives his life by the beeps of his watch, reminding him to take pills at certain points of the day. His rationalization of the world around him always has him stumbling back to his diagnosis as a schizophrenic, which makes the discovery of his father's gruesome secret even more difficult for him to grasp.

There's a disconnect when it comes to hearing about a mental diagnosis and truly comprehending the debilitating effects of that illness. It's welcome when it's addressed maturely and at a visceral level, revealing to you the true nature of the beast that many struggle to contain. That's what's so brilliant about Echoes #1. Fialkov shows you how hard it is to cope with schizophrenia, even with medications. His choice of dialogue and reactions to seemingly trivial events are very well done and completely immerse the reader in this world of uncertainty faced by Brian.

I can't go on and on about Fialkov's writing without mentioning Ekedal. His illustrations are like very little you've seen before and work exceptionally well in black and white. There's a hazy shade to it that creates a general sense of unknowing. It's almost as if the reader is in the dark alongside Brian, both seeking answers on a journey together. It's rare that a book can pull a reader in like that but Echoes #1 does it superbly. Peteri's lettering is a nice addition as well, adding atmospheric emphasis to certain scenes (the rambler's fading text in the hospital is a nice touch).

Echoes #1 is a phenomenal first issue of a five issue series and has me hooked. Brian clearly wants to learn more about his father, but what he learns might be more than he can stand. If the remaining four issues can continue creating an atmosphere of a clouded mind readers could be for a treat. Interiors are below and the book should be in stores this week.