Sunday, November 13, 2011

Review: Rachel Rising #1-3

I didn't develop an appreciation for Terry Moore until fairly recently. Somehow I missed out on Strangers in Paradise when everyone was raving over it, and I wasn't terribly familiar with his work outside of that and his brief run Runaways. Then, a particularly awesome person I know was kind enough to send me Echo, and it didn't take me long to see just what made Terry Moore so great. It only took a few pages before I was completely sucked into the comic, and every issue seemed to introduce new twists or ideas that I found compelling. There something about the way Moore drew people that appealed to me hugely. I don't know how to explain it other than to say they had a realness to them. There was something about them that made them feel like more than characters. It was a really neat quality that only increased my absorption in the story and made me anxious to check out whatever had coming next.

It so happens that that was Rachel Rising, a story about a girl who wakes up in a shallow grave with no idea how she got there. Moore takes a slow burn approach here- the first nine pages are virtually wordless- but it's  never dull, and it never feels as though a page has been wasted. Instead, the silent opening is an incredible powerful hook. Any reader is going to come away with countless questions- who is the mysterious women watching what's happening? How did she know what was going to happen? Is she what brought Rachel back? When you do get to the first bit of dialogue, it feels like a shock to the system. You're pulled straight from a nightmarish world into reality, but you can't help but feel like you never really woke up.

What really makes this work is how real the world Rachel Rising is set in feels. There are no stock characters, not even when it comes to minor characters with one or two lines. I feel like Terry Moore's fully developed personalities for everyone we've seen, even if they're destined never to appear again. The presumable villain in all this has never been given a name and has only spoken a few lines, but she's still been established as a powerful threat, and she's managed to creep me out on more than a few occasions. More important than anything else, I feel for Rachel in all this. It's easy to empathize with how terrifying all this must be for her, and how she must want answers but want things to go back to normal at the same time. I've actually flinched a little at lines spoken to her because of how much I could already relate to her. The characters keep Moore's work grounded in reality, and no matter how strange Rachel Rising gets in future issues, I feel like the comic's world will still read as authentic.

I love bright, colorful pages in comics, and black and white art can be a hard sell for me. I do think the pages would benefit from the occasional pop of color- especially when it comes to Rachel's eyes- but for the most part, Moore's art is so good that I can't imagine it being any better colored. He's a great visual storyteller, and while this isn't an action oriented comic, his panel to panel motion is excellent. As I said before, his characters genuinely look real, even though he doesn't draw in a hyper realistic style. His facial expressions and body language are really powerful, and his characters don't all look as they were drawn from the same mold. There are some nice little details in his backgrounds, and he does a great job at making things look creepy without going over the top. I'm not sure if the comic will stick to its current level of eeriness or move into downright ghastly territory, but I'd love to see something truly gruesome rendered in Moore's style.

The only thing that would make me hesitate to recommend Rachel Rising right at this moment is the wait between issues. Every issue of the comic so far has ended on a cliffhanger, and it can be intense waiting a month or two to see what happens next. Moore's serialized storytelling skills are excellent, but I have a feeling some readers may grow frustrated waiting to get next issue's answers. While I definitely feel like every issue has given me my money's worth, for some, this may be a comic that reads better in trades. To the best of my knowledge, a Rachel Rising trade has yet to be announced, but I'll be sure to announce it here when that changes.

Rachel Rising is an eerie, compelling comic that's interesting not just because of its mysteries, but also because of its well crafted characters. There are elements in it that are fairly terrifying, but I wouldn't classify it as a horror comic. It's just a really interesting story, and I'm happy to follow it wherever it goes. I'd recommend this to fans of Terry Moore, fans of well written female characters, and fans of character driven work in general. Moore is a great talent, and Rachel Rising is him at the top of his game. Whether you jump into it now or follow this one in the trades, you won't be disappointed.

By Marceline with No comments


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