Terry Moore’s “Rachel Rising” is a comic worth reading


If the Zombie Apocalypse is at hand, I hope Terry Moore is in charge.

Moore, whom we know around here as the creator of the beloved comic Strangers In Paradise, has, in his latest title Rachel Rising, created an entirely civilized type of undead character who does not need to eat human flesh or drink their blood to survive.

She’s kind of cute, too. Well, except for the bloodshot eyes and rope burn around her neck.

Now that the trade collection of the first six issues, Rachel Rising: The Shadow of Death, is on the shelves and the book has been nominated for an Eisner Award, let’s consider why you should add this book to your collection.

The story

As we begin, a tall blonde woman (I thought it was Tambi until I saw her up close) stands on a riverbank, watching. The dirt starts moving and a hand pops up, digging at the dirt until a young woman — Rachel — frees herself from what seems to be a grave.

When she gets home, Rachel realizes that several days have passed (she rose from the grave after three days, in fact – happy Easter!) and she has an injury on her throat that indicates she was strangled. People she knows look straight into her eyes and say, “You’re not Rachel.”

What’s a dead girl to do? Solve her own murder, of course. But she finds that her murder is just a small part of her town’s horrific history.

This is a horror story, yes. But it’s also the best kind of mystery. Terry is a storyteller and he unfolds this one slowly. I don’t want to tell you too much because it would deprive you of the sense of anticipation and dread that comes from the story’s pacing. Just give yourself time to experience it — and don’t read it right before you go to bed.

The women

I get so taken with Terry’s characters that I forget they’re fictional. No other comic book creator does that for me. The women are beautiful, to be sure, but what reels me in is how distinctive and realistic they are. I find myself wanting to praise their acting because of their range of expression. I can’t think of another comic that has that kind of rich characterization.

Rachel Rising has mostly female characters, including Rachel; an alternately spooky and scared little girl named Zoe; and the creepy blonde that only Rachel and Zoe can see. But my favorite characters are two that defy traditional depictions of femininity: Aunt Johnny and Jet.

We meet Aunt Johnny in the morgue where she isn’t too surprised to be visited by her dead niece.

Jet, Rachel’s best friend since childhood, is a mechanic by day and a bass player by night.

We don’t know if Johnny or Jet identifies as les/bi — and given the nature of the story, we probably won’t — but seeing androgyny in the comic book world is a refreshing change from the norm.

Terry told Newasrama what makes his comic women interesting.

Well, if you’ll notice, when I write female characters, I don’t have them doing anything that’s actually very feminine. There’s no scenes of women having lunch together or shopping or talking about guys. So what I’m actually doing is using female characters and putting them in situations that are typically male, just because I find that that incongruous setting is so much more intriguing.

The creator

Terry Moore is just plain nice. That sounds boring, I guess, but how many people would you describe that way? He is sharp and opinionated without being arrogant. Despite his success in the comic industry, he hasn’t lost his sense of gratitude to those who buy his books and the retailers who sell them.

Case in point is Terry’s approach to the digital medium. As an independent publisher, he took great care in exactly how and when to enter the digital market, even after he was convinced that online comics were a viable way to expand his readership. He took the opportunity at ComicsPRO to talk to retailers about adding digital as a retail outlet.

“Basically, I went to ask their godfather blessing,” he told Comic Book Resources. “And I got it. I literally asked 100 retailers face to face and they all replied positively. We’re good. Retailers aren’t afraid of digital, they’re just concerned about people getting stupid over it.”

So far, all of Echo and the first six issues of Rachel Rising, including the trade version, are available at ComiXology. Each issue of Rachel will be online the day it comes out in hard copy, and Terry is preparing SIP for its online premiere. I dream of the day I can take Fran and Kat with me everywhere.

The style

I’m continually amazed at how beautiful Terry’s art is. I know that he would love to have the money to produce color comics, but I think black and white serves Rachel well. For one thing, the gross parts are, well, gross, but not unbearable. A scene in which a man (a very bad man) is decapitated would be repugnant in color. Perhaps the book would fall closer to what we usually think of horror, but at the expense of the emotion of the moment. In black and white, you don’t hide your eyes.

As is the case with all of Terry’s work, you can read it again and again and see something new every time. The detail is remarkable — and Terry always rewards readers who pay attention. Writing this post took forever because I found myself entranced by little things I hadn’t noticed before.

Rachel Rising is a brand new concept — and this is the perfect time to get in on the series. You can follow Terry at @terrymoore and keep up with what’s going on in his world at his blog, Terry Moore Art. And you probably want to, because rumor has it that Francine and Katchoo will be back next year to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Strangers In Paradise. I bet Terry will be one of the first to know the details.

Are you reading Rachel Rising? If so, tell us why we should be reading it. If not, pick it up and let us know what you think.

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