Category Archives: Echoes

Sins Of The Father: Image’s Echoes

Ben’s Grim Corner

echoes-comic-3The world is changing.

Now, isn’t that a ridiculous statement? Of course it’s changing – change is the only certainty in this temporal world. It seems pretty redundant to even use the sentence anymore; perhaps it belongs in the pile of other permanently-useless cliches, like “it’s deja vu all over again” (thank you very much, Yogi Berra) and “the Lord works in mysterious ways” (so does the wind, but I’m not about to give it credit for narrowly-missed car accidents or the Leafs missing the playoffs … again).

The fact that the world is changing is no more noteworthy to us than the fact that fire is hot. It’s the type of change – the rate, direction and, most importantly, the outcome – that are of the greatest relevance. And as I look around at the world today, the change I see is fast, aimless and largely terrifying.

But in some ways, we’ve barely changed at all. Sure, the trappings around us are flashier and make cooler noises, but as a people – as a civilization – we’re still pissing in corners to mark our territory and calling the smell “progress”.

Of course, this doesn’t account for everywhere in the world, but frankly the worry I have is not for certain towns and cities (although … Rob Ford…): we live in the first ever planet-wide community that has ever existed in our history, and we choose to focus on the grass growing in our backyard – or worse, the brown patch in our neighbour’s.

Despite mass communication, increased worldwide literacy, a growing social consciousness and revolutionary technological breakthroughs – and I’m just talking since I was born in the early ’80s – Christians are still being murdered in Pakistan, Central Africa and Syria for their beliefs; Palestinians are still hiding from missile strikes; ethnic groups in Spain and the Ukraine are struggling to have their voices heard; and the Supreme Leader of North Korea is shooting missiles at the ocean like it’s giving him the stink-eye.

Forgive me for believing too much in the species I’ve been born into, but aren’t we a little too old for this? It seems to me – and this is coming from someone who is considered by my culture to be entering the “the new 20s” – that the trouble isn’t coming from the changes of today, but from the morass of our history.

Despite our best efforts over the past century of conflict, protest, and mass production, we are still living in the shadows of our forefathers, those men (and I’m being very gender-specific right now) who claimed dominance over everything that didn’t look, dress, talk, and goosestep like they did.

We never truly escape the sins of our past, this much is true; we all know the distress that follows our youthful mistakes coming back to remind us what stupid little shits we used to be. But must we pay for the mistakes of those who never felt the sting of their own hubris and foolishness? Is there a way to wipe the slate clean, a way to return to innocence?

Sadly, I think the only way to put the past to rest is to face it in its entirety – right from the first clubbed skull on the plains of North Africa to the most recent one in the streets of Kiev, or Madrid, or Athens, or Kabul, or … well, name a fucking city.

If we’re really going to be able to move forward, if we want to actually change – not just our city, vocation, or political party, but our direction as a species – it’s going to happen when we start cleaning up our parents’ mess.

The trouble with that whole idealistic concept is that it’s not the things you know about your parents that make for a fucked-up childhood … it’s the skeletons in the closet. We must remember that the most horrific, unconscionable events in our history were discovered after they occurred, whether we’re talking about smallpox-laden gifts to the First Nations of North America, gulags in Soviet Russia, the Holocaust, or Edward Snowden‘s recent revelations (if you didn’t know, those NSA wiretaps began in 1997!).

And make no mistake, the worst secrets are surely yet to be revealed. There’s no shortage of hateful people with mobs of support behind them, and there aren’t enough cameras to keep track of it all … unless you count CCTV, which is a whole other conversation.

The point is, our history is fairly self-explanatory at first glance. It’s when we take a microscope to it, when we really dig deep and investigate the sources of our troubles, that we see who our predecessors truly were – and how much scrubbing we have to do before the dirt’s all gone.

This is precisely what Brian Cohn learns in Echoes, Joshua Hale Fialkov and Rahsan Ekedal’s five-issue limited series about the dangers of digging up the past.

You may remember Rahsan Ekedal’s techno-military think piece Think Tank, a series that is still holding strong and getting more impressive every issue. The art in Echoes shares a similar style – both are black and white – but while Think Tank portrays strong, solid lines and intense, almost schematic-style design to the machinery, Echoes is blurred, sketch-like shades of grey – appropriately so, considering the themes involved in the story.

As for Fialkov, this fellow has a list of award nominations longer than his bibliography, most of which were directed at this particular series – Harvey noms for Best New Series (2011), Best Graphic Album previously published, Best Continuing or Limited Series, Best Writer, and Best Single Issue or Story for the fifth and final issue (2012).

Now, I know I’m usually focused on emerging or currently-running series, but I felt that this work deserved some notice. The series crossed my vision last fall when I was gearing up for these articles, but with such a long list of comics that deserved to be reviewed, it slipped right past me until now. Even though the comic finished in 2010, I still feel that certain comics deserve a return to the spotlight, if only for a moment – especially if the story has such a unique story that inspires more questions than it answers.

Brian Cohn is a mostly-functional paranoid schizophrenic. While still struggling with every day, he’s keeping an even keel; assisted by medication, his loving wife, and the exciting knowledge that he’s only weeks away from becoming a father.

Then, a phone call from the doctor: his own patriarch, the man from whom he inherited his mental disorder, has taken a turn for the worse. It’s a matter of days before he slips away, and this will be Brian’s last chance to say goodbye.

It’s during this final farewell that Brian’s father whispers a frightening confession to his psychologically-disturbed offspring:

“Thirteen thirty nine Haymaker. The bodies … the girls bodies…”

Thus begins a journey into the mind of a man who slowly spirals further and further away from sanity, while each twist of the road reveals more of the truth about his father … and himself.

And that, of course, is why we unearth our pasts; as unnerving or fearsome as it is, the story of our predecessors is but a part of our own tale, as the tale of our lives will be to the generations that follow us.

As Brian discovers – and as we all do, eventually – we must face our past – nay, we are compelled to face it, to learn from its failures and atrocities.

Or, as Winston Churchill warned us just as Stalin’s gulags filled with innocents and the smoke of Auschwitz’s incinerators filled the air, we are doomed to repeat it.

Until next week.


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