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Friday, March 25, 2022

Graphic Novel review: Rachel Rising by Terry Moore

 


Book links: Amazon, Goodreads

Official Author Info: Terry Moore is an American cartoonist, known for the series Strangers in Paradise, Rachel Rising, and the founding of Homage Comics.

Publisher: Abstract Studio Length: 42 issues collected in omnibus edition or seven volumes Art: Terry Moore



Rachel's Halloween sucked. Somebody strangled her to death and buried her in the woods. End of story? Nope. Quite the opposite. She woke up and dug her way back to the surface. 

Now she wants to get the bastard who did it to her. If only she could remember anything about that night. Oh, and there's one more thing. She's dead. But not. It's complicated.



Her investigation reveals the dark secrets of the inhabitants of Manson, a small town in a rural community. Life is slow there, nights dark and quiet. People seem nice but dig deeper, and cracks start to show. There's also Malus around. Malus who? Think evil incarnated desiring to destroy Earth. Manson is an excellent start, especially since the town has a history of killing young women suspected of being witches. 

The tale and mystery get complex, and Moore tales him time to develop multiple subplots and fascinating backstories (of characters and the town). Rachel's friends and allies are a weird and fascinating bunch. Take aunt Johnny, queer coroner whose rational reasoning clashes with everything going around; or Lilith, the first woman ever created who has her own agenda. There's also Zoe, a 10-year old psychopath, and serial killer. Zoe rocks, guys. Only fools (and future corpses) underestimate her. And when they do she introduces them to Jack, her favorite knife built from the remains of Lucifer's sword. 



There are so many excellent ideas here that I could go on and on but nobody would read it. So to close the synopsis part I'll add that Rachel has an interesting gift - when she touches people, or corpses, she can see their final moments of life. And sometimes death is looking back.



This story has everything I want from good storytelling - personal stakes, relatable characters, great mystery, shocking twists. It also has ghosts, dire wolves, malevolent entities, dark secrets, all served with equal parts heart, horror, and drama. Rachel Rising is wonderfully nuanced and layered. 

All characters made remarkable journeys of discovery in the series. Especially Rachel, and just wait for her final confrontation with the killer. Dialogues here are conversational and witty, even in places where you wouldn't expect them to be.


As an artist, Moore is economical, subtle, and precise with the linework. I mean, he's doing everything by himself: writing, penciling, inking, and lettering. It's clear he has a singular vision and the skills to translate it into the page. The story benefits from simple black and white illustrations. If Rachel Rising gets color treatment in the future, I'll buy this version, too. 

Rachel Rising is brilliant. It tells a great story, at a pace permitting to develop characters and create mysteries within mysteries. Yes, it's horror and contains genuinely scary or gory scenes, but never for shock value. Dark humor balances grim aspects of the tale.


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