"Obviously, I'm not dead, Jet. Look at me."
"You look dead!"
"I'm having a rough night, okay?"
Talented comic writer-artist Terry Moore, who has previously taken on friendship (and then some) in Strangers in Paradise and science fiction in Echo, is moving along to the horror genre with his new book, Rachel Rising. Issue-by-issue comic collecting makes me crazy nowadays, so I was happy that the first six-issue collection, Rachel Rising Volume 1: The Shadow of Death, was already out by the time my friend Serge tipped me off about the comic. That isn't too say that waiting for the next collection won't be torture!
In a way, Moore is jumping on the zombie bandwagon, but being Moore, he doesn't do it like anyone else. Rachel Rising centers around the town of Manson, which is just as creepy as its name and was the site of a mass execution of witches centuries ago. The entire town is, in effect, an ancient graveyard. You just know that isn't going to work out well.
"What kind of kids make a pact to the afterlife?"
"Kids who live in Manson."
As in Strangers in Paradise, a pair of close female friends, Rachel and Jet, are at the heart of the story. Jet is an auto mechanic, though it's not clear whether that's for fun or profit, and plays guitar with a band. It's not clear what Rachel used to do before she dug herself out of a shallow grave with creepy blood-red eyes and the marks of strangulation on her neck. Moore has a wonderful touch with the relationships between women, and the close, teasing friendship between the two is beautifully depicted.
While the book so far centers around Rachel's quest to find out exactly what happened to her, Moore surrounds her with a typically bizarre supporting cast. This includes Rachel's delightfully butch Aunt Johnny, an Elvis fan who works in a morgue and sees visions; the jolly Dr. Sieman, who knows exactly what's wrong with Rachel (and might even be right); a little girl named Zoe whose sweet little bunny slippers tell you right off that something extremely un-sweet is coming; and a mysterious blonde woman who turns up whenever there's about to be a death.
And the death rate is high. People are killed on very little provocation, and the forest ravine where people go to bury bodies secretly would be getting somewhat crowded if all the victims actually stayed dead. One should not depend upon that being the case.
Among Moore's favorite tropes are tough female characters, supposed good guys who actually aren't, and his female characters' extremely direct response to such people. Unsurprisingly, there are no shrinking violets here. And with the horror/supernatural element...let's just say this is not a town in which one really wants to be a sex offender.
The writing is witty and full of dark humor. The art is very typical Terry Moore: while the characters look pleasingly normal, with no freakish figures or other artistic excess, the women do have a certain familiar look in the face and hair that makes me think of some of the SiP characters. Rachel and Jet are attractive (Moore like his sexy women), but in a natural style (look, freckles!) rather than a generic supermodel look.
There are a few clues to where Moore is going with the story, but I hope he's in particular hurry to get there. In a Fandomania interview, he said it's an open-ended series, probably shorter than SiP but longer than Echo.
Highly recommended. Read for yourself: