This review first appeared in The Morpheus Tales Supplement #18.
Celebrated alternative comics creator Terry Moore’s latest series, Rachel Rising, is a tale of the supernatural run amok in small-town America. Best known for his trailblazing success self-publishing the series Strangers in Paradise, Moore remains steadfast in his independence, and so puts out Rachel Rising through his own company, Abstract Studio. Rachel Rising should appeal to Moore’s usual fans, as well as general readers of horror fiction, since this comic infuses his usual character-driven drama with tales of witchcraft and the undead. In particular, anyone on the lookout for a fresh take on zombies should give this series a shot. While the dialogue, characters, and plots are reminiscent of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer franchise or, closer to home, the comic book series iZombie, Rachel Rising dials down the repartee, hipness, and reflexivity for the sake of reader immersion, and the result stands among the darker entries into the feminist supernatural horror canon.
The eponymous lead character of Rachel Rising is a young woman resurrected as a zombie soon after her murder. Fully conscious of the gruesome experience of undeath, although a bit hazy on the details of her actual demise, Rachel turns to her family and friends to help her suss out the whys and wherefores of her resurrection, and they soon discover other eerie goings-on linked to their town’s history as a hotbed of the Colonial-era witch hunts. Although there are some standouts, most of the supporting cast leaves something to be desired, and a few come off as stock, so fingers crossed that Moore brings his talent for characterization to bear on the flatter roles in coming issues. His masterful portrayals of facial expressions and body language draw the reader into the emotions of the story nonetheless.
The stark black-and-white artwork is set off with very spare use of flat grey. In tandem with his restrained use of brushes, Moore’s fine pen-work allows for highly-detailed compositions that still have a sketchy look. The series might have benefited from washes or gradients, since some of the cross-hatching looks unappealing. As expected from such an experienced comics storyteller, the panelization and page layouts are crystal-clear and well-paced. While the interior artwork is solid throughout, the covers are hit or miss. The flat reds and greens used on some of the earlier covers make those issues eyesores best left at the bottom of the stack, and a couple of the compositions are a bit weak, too. The series seems to have found the right approach to cover art by the seventh issue, with striking pencil sketches against more tasteful pallets.
Despite its flaws, Rachel Rising is one of the best horror comics on the stands right now. Any fan of zombie fiction tired of the genre’s survivalist tropes who wants to see the creatures in a different light should sit up and take notice of this one.