I don’t know anything about Kevin McCarthy or Paolo Pantalena and a quick internet search didn’t reveal much either. I’m guessing, although correct me if I’m wrong, that Epoch is the first major work by the author or artist.
Epoch is that age-old tale of Angels versus Demons. You come to realise this after a couple of pages, and my gut reaction, to be honest, was “not again!” How can they make this original, or interesting, or not just a comic-book rip-off of Supernatural? What McCarthy has done is to make it appear like a police procedural story. I’m not talking about something like Gotham Central where the focus is on the background characters and not the superheroes, but where the angels are the police and the demons are the criminals.
A little back-story then. There has been a truce between the warring factions for a thousand years and they have remained hidden from humans. An angel, Michael (we’re not given firm evidence that he is the Michael in issue 1), is a partner to Jonah, who is apparently unaware of Michael’s true nature. There’s been a grisly murder in the opening scene, and Jonah admits to finally believing in monsters. We are then transported back in time to the start of the case. Another murder, a famous congresswoman in police custody and Michael out of the picture. What follows is a basic discovery plot where Jonah realizes things aren’t what they seem, demons exist, Michael’s true nature is revealed, a magic McGuffin is introduced and Jonah has an interesting, if predictable, reconciliation with his father.
Despite initial reservations, I warmed to the premise, and I was drawn to the artwork, if you’d excuse the pun. However, what doesn’t work in Epoch’s favour is the naive dialogue and the clichéd plotting. The characters are drawn fairly angular in style, with maybe a hint of manga without the characterising large eyes. The images are striking and nicely gruesome where appropriate. The panelling is clear and easy to follow. There are some pages with a few very large panels which are very effective visually. The caption boxes are mostly in type-writer style font, giving the impression that Jonah’s thoughts are a typed report, which is a nice touch. However, a lot of the dialogue bubbles have annoying bold type every few words to increase emphasis. This is not really needed as in most cases as the emphasis is obvious. The author should let the visuals inform the reader; treating them with the respect and intelligence not to sign post everything. Some of the plotting is rushed and heavy handed. Within seconds of Jonah meeting his father, they are deep in an argument which seems to have come from nowhere. Another point of contention is when Michael is battling the demon. In most other mythologies, demons have names. In Epoch, even though Michael knows the demon well and they have done battle before, he just calls him demon. Odd.
So, I’d have to say Epoch is a little disappointing, which is a shame as it has potential. The art work is great, but the story is cliché yet still has potential to be fun if the plotting and dialogue improve.