Comicscape: Rachel Rising -

Comicscape: Rachel Rising

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Comicscape: Rachel Rising

Dead Again

By Joel Rickenbach     August 08, 2012

A blonde woman walks through the woods. Eventually she arrives at a small ravine, and stops to observe, as if a show is about to begin. Crows take flight from a nearby tree as a single leaf falls to the earth, immediately burning as it makes contact with the dirt. Slowly, fingers, arms and legs begin to make their way out of a shallow grave. The clawing exhumation becomes more frantic until finally a woman in a little black dress emerges. Her completely bloodshot eyes take in the bright sky, triggering an incomplete memory of a masked figure on a dark night. The blonde observer is gone; perhaps satisfied? The woman, fresh from the grave, struggles to get to her feet. She slowly makes her way through forest and fields until she finds the road. A passing car screeches to a halt, and a man gets out. "Are you hurt?”"Have you been in an accident?" "Let me drive you to a hospital." The woman is interested in none of his questions, she simply asks “Will you take me home?” This is the opening hook of Terry Moore's Rachel Rising.

Terry Moore has been giving us great stories with memorable characters involved in complex relationships for a very long time. For those unfamiliar, his magnum opus, and claim to comics fame, is Strangers in Paradise, which I highly recommend you check out. Moore has a very definitive style that’s hard to describe in a few short buzz words. He is obviously drawn to female protagonists, and I would guess identifies more with their point of view. His characters are always involved in relationships that are not immediately easy to pin down. Most people would probably be more than happy to read his books with those merits alone, but he also loves to frame these characters in some truly unique settings. For example- Strangers in Paradise has a sub-plot that involves a shadowy organization, espionage and politics, which is not something you would ever get from the covers. These aspects bring a true richness to his storytelling when they intertwine, and you always feel like you are left with something wholly original.
There are creators in all mediums that bring their style and sensibilities to everything they do. They are never guns for hire, because they can’t help but creatively control everything they work on. Take, for example, Quentin Tarantino- in the film world he’s know as an auteur- he controls just about every aspect of his films. From which lenses to use, to the hand picked soundtracks, nothing is left to chance. Fortunately for us, Tarantino has covered a wide range of genres in his filmography, but this isn’t always the case with an auteur. Lets look at another example- Wes Anderson. He makes fantastically crafted films, which he labors over deeply. Each of his films has it’s own flavor, for sure, but he’s never really dipped his toes outside his comfort zone in a different genre. All his films, in the end, are about broken families, and how his characters deal with what that means to them, and how they let it shape them- even if it stars animated foxes.  Every time I see his latest work (Moonrise Kingdom is highly recommended), I always wonder what it would be like if he left his comfort zone and made a film from a different genre. I don’t know, maybe a noir? A western? Or, perhaps, a horror film? Terry Moore does this, with sensibilities completely intact, in Rachel Rising. What would Moore’s strong female characters and deep relationships be like when applied to the dark world of horror? We’ve got our answer, and I am happy to report it’s pretty great.
Rachel Rising gets more curious and weird with each issue, but always has a firm grasp of reality. This is something Moore has always been good at- His characters almost always end up saying the things you want them to say, or ask the questions you would ask. Many writers, particularly in mystery or horror, love to present us with unexplainable or supernatural elements that are never really challenged by the affected characters. Moore’s approach can be very matter-of-fact- characters will address the strange happenings around them, even if they accept them in the face of everyday logic, at least there’s a dialogue grounding everything in reality. There’s no shortage of odd and frightening stuff happening in the town of Manson, and most of it is still shrouded in mystery. There’s a quiet, cold sense of dread that blankets the entire book. It’s not exactly a happy place to be, but the warmth comes from some truly interesting characters, not unlike the charms of a great Stephen King yarn. 
Rachel, the woman who rises from the grave, seems to be normal in every possible way, except for the bloodshot eyes and ligature marks around her neck. She takes a shower and sleeps like the dead for most of the day. After rising once again, it’s time to piece together what happened. The last thing she remembers is visiting her friend, Jet, at work, and trying to convince her to come out to meet some friends, but after that things are a bit blurry. She heads over to Jet’s house, but the man sitting on the porch, Lewis, a man who sits, observing the town without a shirt, even when it snows, tells her Jet is out playing with her band at a club. That doesn’t make sense, it’s Wednesday, Jet doesn’t have a gig on Wednesday. Lewis informs her that it’s actually Friday, just before his mother peeks out the window, and warns- “you’re not Rachel.” With even more questions, Rachel decides to go see her Aunt Johnny at the morgue. Johnny doesn’t seem surprised to see Rachel, but does seem to be under the impression that Rachel is a figment of her imagination. Apparently the job of a coroner takes it’s mental toll- Johnny is visited by everyone from Buddy Holly to Jesus, and Elvis hangs out in the bathroom, so Rachel showing up bloodshot and rope burned is no big deal. Rachel does her best to try and convince Johnny she is real, but much like Lewis’ mother, Johnny tells her “Nooooo… You’re not Rachel.” What else is there to do but drag Johnny out to Firehill, and show her the shallow grave from whence she came. Firehill got its name from the one hundred women who were hung and burned for witchcraft in full view of the town. As they make their way through the forest, Johnny ruminates “They found half a boy in these woods back in 1963. He was over 300 years old. They never found the rest of him.” Johnny also mentions the boys death was always attributed to a bear attack, but back in 1982 she examined the bones in a forensics lab, and found sawtooth serrations. It’s at this point Johnny notices the shallow grave; Rachel tells her that’s where she woke up this morning, but Johnny approaches it, nonchalantly, still humoring this figment of her imagination. She finds a ragged length of rope, then frantically starts digging and screaming Rachel’s name, but Rachel is right beside her, isn’t she? Johnny snaps out of it, and wonders if she’s losing her mind- after all, Rachel is right in front of her, although, as many have pointed out- she’s not Rachel.
That little synopsis is just the tip of the iceberg- I haven’t even mentioned the little girl who casually murders her family, the old man doing his best Norman Bates impression or the other woman who rises with a snake living inside her. Suffice it to say- Rachel Rising is a must read, and will keep it’s hook in you for a long time. Issue #9 was just released, and really starts to answer some questions and give us plenty to chew on until next month. I’ve read that Terry Moore sees this series lasting between 30 – 40 issues, so if that’s the case, we’re approaching the end of the first act. I can imagine that it will only get stranger and more rewarding from here, so do yourself a favor and jump in while the grave is still fresh. 
Rachel Rising is published monthly by Abstract Studios, and is available at finer comic book stores, and digitally from Comixology. Issues #1-6 were recently released as the trade The Shadow of Death.
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Showing items 1 - 8 of 8
shac2846 8/8/2012 9:41:10 AM

 So jedi the waid hulk will be called indestructible hulk and if you go to newsarama they have the cover art. Looks good. 

I got Terry Moore's complete Echo as a christmas gift and haven't even started yet. I'm trying to finish Bone complete edition first. Should have it read this week and will start Echo soon. This new book sounds intriguing but since i'm a wait for the trade guy it will be awhile. Keep us posted. 

Joel, I like how you keep introducing the indie stuff keep it up. I enjoy superhero comics as much as the next person but I like to branch out which I find myself doing more often than not. I bought underwater welder last week and enjoyed it quite a bit. 

I've also picked up batgirl and demon knights from the DC new 52 pretty good. Especially batgirl thought I would miss oracle but it's nice seeing her back in costume. 

joelr 8/9/2012 8:56:08 AM

Thanks, shac, I appreciate it! Underwater welder is definitely a must read, very original. I hope you get a chance to check out Rchel Rising.

RobertTrate 8/9/2012 10:26:35 AM

 Joel, you are killing my wallet! 

shac2846 8/9/2012 12:13:31 PM
 Joel, have you read Jeff Smith's Rasl? It just ended and the final trade just came out so I'm thinking of picking that up just off the strength of Bone. The reviews I've read are good, just wondering your take if you have read it.
dalgoda 8/10/2012 7:16:38 AM

I also picked up Underwater Welder and Eternity last week and enjoyed both of them.  Rachel Rising sounds interesting and I will give it a shot.

alienstatue 8/10/2012 6:38:15 PM

picked up a few trades earlier this week. I won't say which ones in case my comic book shop guy is one of you guys!! haha. But side note, I didn't know Superman Beyond was digital only. I was bummed to find this out.

Gotta start up Uncanny X-Force again. I'm behind by about 5 issues.

Anyone recommend Scarlet Spider?

joelr 8/13/2012 2:14:55 PM

@shac- I unfortunately have not read RASL, but I hear good things. If you pick it up tell us how it is!

@alienstatue Scarlett Spider seems to be a pretty decent book. I read the first few and wasn't blown away, but everything I've heard since seems rather interesting. Fans seem to love it.

alienstatue 8/13/2012 10:44:35 PM

Cheers Joel. I'll give it a go on my next comic shop day



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