When you stray away from the Big Two comic publishers you can certainly end up in an interesting place. For me this week, that was Rachel Rising. Terry Moore handles the story and art in this book and he’s one of the rare few who can do that well. Most creatives are either great storytellers or great artists. Terry Moore manages to do both.
The art style of Rachel Rising brings to mind a fusion of Western, Manga, and web comic influences. This gives the story a kind of intimacy that can sometimes be missing from the standard fare. Additionally, Moore is a master at facial expressions. He can communicate more in one panel with a the crinkle of a nose than most artists can on an entire page of text. He’s also very good at using beat panels to express awkward or thoughtful pauses in the action. At a high level, Rachel Rising is the story of two seemingly unrelated characters who have some strange spirit-level stuff happening to them. In Rachel’s case, she wakes up buried in a riverbed. Later she is at a morgue where her friends swear she was pronounced dead, despite the fact she appears to be alive. Zoe, on the other hand, is a little girl who has a guardian angel/demon who seems to be so aggressive in protecting her that those who threaten Zoe’s safety find themselves dead.
I’m not familiar with any of Moore’s other works so I don’t know if he’s going at his usual pace, but this issue is a real slow burn - only Bendis or Hickman at Marvel tend to simmer their stories this slowly like food in a crockpot. Then entire issue takes place in one location per each of the two main characters. In some ways nothing happens and in other ways, a lot happens.
Let’s take Rachel’s story first. In this issue she wakes up, talks to a friend, and has dinner. Not much there on the surface. But when she’s talking to her friend we find out they have a special bond from childhood. We find out what it was like for Rachel to wake up, buried alive. And during dinner we find out a huge revelation that may be the key to this series.
Zoe’s story takes place in a government building where she has been put up for foster care after her house was destroyed in a fire. This entire half of the book probably takes place over 15 minutes. But, again, we learn so much about what’s going in this world. We see that Zoe’s guardian spirit is able to move people around. With just the right facial expression, we are shown before we are told that there’s something not quite right with the husband who will be taking Zoe in.
So a lot is revealed without things moving forward too far. Then again, it’s easy to be forget this is only the fifth issue. It can take a long time to establish a world, characters, and their relationships. Another difficulty in this review is that his issues don’t really stand well on their own. While most issues of any series are part of a multi-issue arc, Rachel Rising has the feel of one long arc. In a sense, I couldn’t really recommend getting this issue without recommending you get all prior issues. With most comics you could be sure that in an issue or two there’d be a new story arc to jump on.
All that said, I think Terry Moore is doing some fascinating stuff with Rachel Rising both story-wise and artistically. If there were ever a point to start reading, it’d be with this issue. After all, my younger brother, who lent me this issue, has been having a very hard time getting a hold of back issues. The longer you wait to start reading Rachel Rising, the harder it’s going to be to get filled in on what’s happened.