Knowing Terry Moore's work by reputation only, I took a gamble and added Rachel Rising to my pull list when it was first solicited in Previews this summer. Had it been the product of an unknown creator, I probably wouldn't have given the book a second thought, much less made a commitment to buy it. The premise — in which a young woman rises from her grave to investigate the mystery of her own murder — seemed rather pedestrian and overdone among the horror/fantasy genre, not like the work of an acclaimed innovator in storytelling. With Moore's name attached, however, my hunch was that Rachel Rising would turn out to be more than it appeared, and now that I've had a chance to read it, I can confidently say that I was right.
A mere three issues in, Rachel Rising has already advanced beyond a simple focus on the mystery surrounding the title character's death and rebirth. While questions about those events are still driving the plot forward for the most part, Moore hasn't let an issue slip by yet where he has refrained from piling several other layers of intrigue on top of them. As Rachel struggles to get a grip on what exactly has happened to her, she crosses paths with another enigmatic woman who's quickly shaping up to be the series' villain. That second woman's actions comprise the most interesting parts of this latest issue, as her seemingly supernatural ability to drive people to commit gruesome murders casts a fearful chill over the entire story.
Ever the genre jumper, Moore proves himself here to be a master of utilizing horror elements to establish suspense. There's a strong sense of dread and unease that looms over every page of this comic, punctuated by an increasingly disturbing series of details and events. What begins as a somewhat subtle use of dramatic irony gradually builds to moments of outright shock, each step expertly paced so as to generate maximum effect. Rachel Rising is as scary as anything you'll read in a Scott Snyder book, matching Severed and Swamp Thing step for step in the bone chill factor.
That is mainly due to Moore's obvious expertise as a visual storyteller, honed by years of experience writing and drawing his own comics. So much of the tension comes from the way in which his characters share glances with each other from across a room, their expressions displaying more nuance of emotion than should be possible for hand drawn figures. All the while, the images keep in perfect step with the words, which serve to clarify the action where needed but never get in the way whenever a mere picture will suffice. In other words, Moore is making comics exactly the way they should be, and it is remarkable how rare a find that actually is.
Don't be scared off by the indie label, as Rachel Rising is a book suitable to be read by anyone in search of a thrilling and eerie story. Terry Moore is undoubtedly smarter than you or me, but his intelligence doesn't prevent him from crafting a tale that's accessible to those outside his IQ demographic. Though the book is a complex effort that rewards the thoughtful, it's perfectly suited for mass consumption, delivering a product that has, to date, only exceeded expectations.
Raised on a steady diet of Super Powers action figures and Adam West Batman reruns, Chris Kiser now writes for Comics Bulletin. He once reviewed every tie-in to a major DC Comics summer event and survived to tell the tale. Ask him about it on Twitter, where he can be found at @Chris_Kiser!