Comic Review: Phoenix Song – Echo (5-issue mini series, Marvel)

Phoenix Song: Echo


Rebecca Roanhorse (author), Luca Maresca(Illustrator), Kyle Charles (Illustrator), Carlos López (Color Artist), Bryan Valenza (Color Artist), Ariana Maher (Letterer)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


This book was one I had very positive expectations of because I like Maya Lopez as a character from back when she first appeared in Daredevil and her becoming The Phoenix was a strange and genuinely unexpected turn of events – one brimming with potential.

The 5-issue mini is following Maya (a.k.a Echo) after she has become Phoenix and her struggle to get a handle on being the host of one of the most powerful cosmic entities in existence. That premise alone should be sufficient for a mini like this, but we get that plus we get the mingling of that with dipping toes into the waters of Maya’s lineage via the introduction of a new character named River whom she meets at a Native Reservation where she goes to seek the aid of a tribal elder who has unfortunately passed away.

Meanwhile we have a shadowy entity who is trying to meddle with and possibly do harm to our young heroine and also Forge of the X-Men who thinks that Maya is in over her head and after all that mutants have been through at The Phoenixs’ hands (claws? beak? wings?), it needs to be contained until Maya can get control or they can be possibly seperated if she can’t.

There is no doubt that the strongest part of this book is the artwork. The entire art team has done a bang-up job from start to finish, including some truly GORGEOUS covers for each issue, truly Phoenix-traordinary!
The story however suffers from multiple reasons. It seems to be a bit of a Marvel trend at the moment maybe, because I had a similar problem with another review I did recently (Sabretooth: The Adversary) which was that it was a book with many good ideas and a lot of potential, but somehow it seemed to be unable to focus and felt rushed and as a result, poorly executed in the end.

To be clear, the ideas that author Rebecca Roanhorse puts into play are perfectly good. Echo struggling with The Phoenix and the petulant nature of the entity was great and her need to try and ground herself and have a bit of a journey to get there and to reach an equilibrium with The Phoenix and that she’d have at least a couple of people who were after her is well within the ambit of what this comic should be focussing upon.
However, we get a painfully rushed comic that after a decent start in issue #1 to set it all in motion, from the second issue onwards is like a barrelling train. A fast-paced adventure is not in and of itself a bad thing, but this hearkens back to the comics of the “golden age” where there was little to no depth or explanation or exploration and nuance to what was happening. Hero does X, villain does Y, someone says a thing, there’s punching and sad moment and then dark moment and then revelation moment and more punching and heroic shot and drama and then “boom! bang!” we’re done and it’s all tied up neatly with a bow – and they all lived happily ever after, or whatever.

Relationships evolve and change for no good reason, there’s emotional moments that should be payouts but you never built anything for it to be paying off here. Echo’s journey through her past and ancestry, her interactions with River and Forge, Forge’s role in all this – all of it just felt like (especially as we got toward the end) just like a series of dominoes falling faster and faster and I didn’t get to enjoy the journey and was expected to feel good at seeing the new big-picture at the end.

There’s a fantastic character exploration and heroic adventure to be had here at its core and a perspective and study at Native American history to be done in this comic. But sadly it’s all lost and at best, skimmed on the surface, all in the interest of the villain we could have totally excised from the story and perhaps a mini-series that could have done with an extra couple of issues to really give it some room. As it stands, it’s a wonderfully drawn and rendered comic that’s ultimately a let-down for me and a wasted opportunity as far as the story goes.

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