Cover to ‘Echoes’. Image courtesy of Dark Horse Comics.

By Arpad OkayEchoes is an alarming book. Frightening in the darkness it contains, scary in how good it is. Even the proposition it’s based on is worrisome — to step back in time and meddle with your own past. Who in their right mind would tamper with their origins? A misanthrope. Someone who is no stranger to trauma. Fred Martin, Our Hero.

Murder made Martin an orphan, time made him a jerk. And when it seems his time has come, he is snatched from the brink and put down square in the middle of his own childhood. Echoes is an episode of The Twilight Zone as directed by PT Anderson. Bizarre and raw. The rules of reality are bent and life carries on as if nothing happened. It may be host to a time traveler, but it’s still just a small town. Nowhere is normal and everything is the same.

How the story’s told is philosophically filmic. A great deal of the panels are tight, close shots of people. Their faces dominate space, their emotions dictate the book’s mood. When everyone is miserable, so are you. But the intensity of empathy is given the breathing room it needs to resonate with well-timed wide shots: Wonders of nature, the spectacle of industry, the eyes and expressions that tell the tale.

Courtesy of Dark Horse Comics.

Courtesy of Dark Horse Comics.

Forget the time travel part and this script doesn’t need a studio. It could easily be made by friends, shot on location in the barrooms and backwoods of its Northwest setting, leaning on its players to carry the emotions behind the story into the audience’s experience. The horror that haunts Freddy Martin and Echoes? A monster we also know all too well: Domestic violence.

Echoes is captivating. It can lift you up, but the sunshine boils quickly away into dread. It’s a pulpy, penetrating tale of magical realism. And misery. Ready to give you subtle chills one minute and yank the rug out from under your feet the next. Do you secretly relish the feeling when the bottom of your stomach drops out, the panic in your chest when people you’ve come to care for are in danger? Here’s your next read. No masks, no mysteries, just bloody knuckles and broken homes and falling dominoes. A little time travel and a lifetime of bad decisions.

Dark Horse Comics/$14.99

Written by Mike Richardson.

Illustrated by Gabriel Guzmán.

Colors by Java Tartaglia.

Lettering by Nate Piekos.

8 out of 10