Julie Martin’s life is pretty much completely messed up. Julie’s in the middle of a nasty divorce from a small-town cop, and she is having real trouble letting go of their relationship. The divorce has come to pass due to Julie’s misery over the sudden, accidental death of nearly her entire family. Julie’s sister, Pam, is the only person Julie has left who loves her. However, Pam’s survival only adds even more to Julie’s depression: Pam has been confined to a mental institution since the deaths, and she seems to live in a constant medicated daze.
As if that’s not enough complexity in Julie’s life, she also witnesses a mysterious explosion in the upper atmosphere that bonds part of an amazing exoskeleton to her chest. This bizarre event puts Julie squarely in the crosshairs of some very nasty government officials.
Terry Moore’s first new series since the end of Strangers in Paradise treads both new and familiar ground. The new ground is obvious: Moore has never dealt with super-powers or adventure stories, though Strangers in Paradise certainly had its share of intrigue. The familiar ground is more subtle, but is also similar to Moore’s previous work.
Moore has always been skilled at presenting well-rounded and complex female characters. He demonstrates that ability once again in this comic with his portrayal of Julie. She is sad and flawed, but these flaws are based squarely in reality. Moore goes out his way to portray Julie’s unhappy life without melodrama, and he shows his character’s complex and conflicting reactions to her new powers. At once scared and excited by her new abilities, Julie seems more real because she just doesn’t quite know how to react to all the strangeness that now surrounds her. Most people would likely feel the strange congruence of fear and emotion that Julie experiences in this book.
As the graphic novel goes on, Moore also exposes the humanity of Julie’s estranged husband, Rick, who seems to want to believe Julie’s unbelievable story at times, but his long experience with her has taught him not to trust in Julie’s craziness.
By the end of the book, Julie begins to see a way out of her loneliness–ironically, due to the suit. Readers begin to learn the back-story of the odd suit, and we discover that it had been worn by a government agent named Annie Trotter–who died when the suit exploded. However, Annie’s boyfriend, Dillon Muphy, is kept in the dark regarding the secret for about a week. When he learns of Annie’s death, Dillon freaks out a bit.
In a daze, Dillon wanders into the sandy hills around Moon Lake. He meets Annie and helps her take some action while wearing the suit. He represents hope for Annie; hope not just for survival, but for an end to her loneliness. As Julie narrates while riding on the back of Dillon’s motorcycle, “I think of Dillon. No . . . I feel him. Warm and strong. He feels like love.”
Again and again in this book, Moore returns to Julie’s complex human flaws, to her intense yearning for something to make her happy. She’s desperate for someone to love her, no matter if that person is really trying to track down the reasons that his girlfriend died. It’s a most unusual sort of love triangle. Yet, in Moore’s hands, it works wonderfully.
I’m anxious to find out more about the mysterious suit that Julie is wearing. More than that, though, I’m anxious to spend more time with this wonderful character. Count on Terry Moore to seem to promise superhuman action but deliver a completely human drama.