Psychic investigator Professor Harlan Woodbine has come to an old house on the outskirts of Paris to look into reports of strange goings on. Onetime owner Mortimer Samson-Vine died there in 1895 after surprising the art establishment when his mediocre paintings became more dazzling - and disturbing. Some say the later paintings depict ghosts that haunted him... New proprietor Monsieur Sauveterre wants to know the house is safe before hosting a seminar, and Harlan and associates Leah and Serge aim to find scientific evidence that will banish uncertainty.
After a couple of days of preparation, Harlan begins his enquiry with a sweep of the old mansion. And very quickly, something strange occurs.
Harlan brings his equipment to bear on the mystery. Did he really see a lovely woman? He doesn’t actually believe in ghosts. More than his monitors and veeblefetzers, an old sketchbook he finds may shed some light on the apparent apparition.
Later, as he heads to the kitchen for a midnight snack, a storm breaks out. And the wheelchair user winds up in a very vulnerable position.
Originally published in three issues, Future Echoes is best read in one sitting, and happily a collection appeared around the time of the conclusion. While the first issue ends on the dramatic note above, the transition between #2 and #3 is a genteel affair in what is more gothic romance than spooky thriller. As protagonists go, Harlan is a bit of a cold fish, lacking charisma, but his determination to not let physical limitations get in the way of living make him admirable. Future Echoes’ other main character, Amelia - Is she a ghost? I’m not spoiling that one! - is more compelling, as a mysterious figure. Together, they anchor this first title from Liminal Comics, which comes from storytellers Al Davison and Yen Quach. As well as being separately responsible for fully illustrated sequences, as different worlds come together the artists combine their talents. The result is fascinating, and unique. Backmatter shows exactly how the process worked, and gives more character background, but it’s not necessary to enjoy the story.
Artist/writer Davison has been in the comics industry for decades, and while he’s drawn for Vertigo, and IDW’s Dr Who, he’s best known for his autobiographical book The Spiral Cage. Born with spina bifida, his experiences of growing up ‘different’ inform, but don’t overwhelm, Future Echoes - what’s going on in Harlan’s head is as important as the physical challenges he faces. The naturalistic dialogue and illustrating style Davison uses for the Harlan-centric sequences make for a ghost story that’s a long way from Grand Guignol, while the scrappier art style employed by Quach for Amelia’s memoirs suits the material to a tee.
As the first offering from former Vertigo editor Alisa Kwitney’s Liminal Comics, Future Echoes is quite the calling card - experimental without being outre, and more importantly, a great-looking, engrossing read, perfect for a grey winter’s day.
Future Echoes review, Al Davison, Yen Quach, Alisa Kwitney, Liminal Comics