Rachel Rising Simply Sinks / by Alec Berry

I feel like Terry Moore could start a cult, and people would be absolutely cool with it. Or at least Terry Moore fans would be. I've always had this respect for Mr. Moore even though I've only peered into a few, random issues of Strangers in Paradise. He's always seemed like the type of comics creator I could get behind. He self-publishes. He writes and draws. He simply works in the 20-some page comic book format. But it's more than that, even. Moore still lives and breaths that model of independent publishing so infused with the 1980s and 90s that entirely I missed out on it due to my lack of existence. His approach to publishing so evokes Dave Sim and Cerebus; it's that aesthetic of "it comes from my basement, yet it some how gets into comic book stores" that's missing today. Instead, digital dials in as everybody's answer, and you have to hit up a blog and Paypal your way into a comic. While I'm happy technology has provided artists with multiple new outlets to distribute and sell their work, I do hold this appreciation and lingering desire for old-fashioned.

I just dig the idea of a dude cranking out work in his own home, and, two weeks later, his finished piece ends up somewhere hundreds of miles from his home in some hole-in-the-wall retail outlet. There's a grungy effort there I find exotic and tangible.

So after years of distanced admiration on my part,  I thought I'd actually purchase a Terry Moore series and read it, and Rachel Rising, Moore's latest ongoing project, seemed like the perfect opportunity to interact with Moore's work on somewhat of a fresh basis. It just kind of sucks I wasn't that into it.

Where it fails ... well ... there's a few places, but where it succeeds is on the front it should have invested more time in: the visual storytelling. I'm not sure what Moore considers himself as, but I've always held the man up as an artist not a writer. Why? His line work holds a knife to the throat of any other illustrator's, and Moore simply possesses a visual flow forgotten by a majority of the comics we now know. But it's neither of these elements on their own. No. Moore's combination of line and flow are what make his work special. There's something classical about it. When you read his art, you think, "damn, this how it should work."

Two brief moments in Rachel Rising, from issues 1 to 4, reflect such a thought, and it's those two moments that really accomplish the tone the comic is after. The left alone panels, free of word balloons, portray an eerie existence soundtracked by the events inside them, and as a reader I'm left to only gaze and feel the vibe Moore is sending my way. And it's smooth. Smooth. Accomplished. Heavy. But it doesn't last, sadly. Instead, writer Moore takes over, and you end up reading a comic with poor, annoying dialog that runs in circles and a story that so far has given little. It could all easily be fixed, and probably supply more of a reward no matter than situation of the plot, if the visual end of the storytelling just dominated the piece. For some reason though, Moore seems set on a script driven comic. Which is funny because even minus the dialog I'd say Rachel Rising has embraced the wrong aspects of writer-driven comics. This book's pacing is all wack, making Brian Michael Bendis look even better in my eyes.

Not to say I dislike Bendis. I actually enjoy his work very much, and I'm willing to sacrifice any "cool points" I may possess to say so. The point is, though, that drawn out pacing and extra dialog go bad not just because they're there but because they're executed poorly. Bendis holds the crown as "decompression" king because he does it correctly - for the most part - and uses it to fulfill a point. Moore ... well ... I don't really know.

The purpose could be for matters of mystery and suspense, but if so the story's structure has gone past creating worthwhile questions and on into territory of annoying nomadic movement. After 4 issues, I only know this tale is about a half-dead girl, and all I've read to prove it are countless scenes of her friends and family being like, "Oh, Rachel, is that you? You look different."

"It's me."

"No, I don't think so."

"Yep."

"No. I'm hallucinating."

"It's really me. I'm just kind of dead or something."

"I don't believe it"

"Yep. See these scares around my neck?"

"Rachel...?"

That conversation. Over and over. And I know very little about Rachel except that she's apparently been murdered and something weird is happening to her. Honestly though, that's not even my real issue with the comic. I'm not worried about the answers or who the character is. Actually, I kind of like that she's just this seemingly random girl. It's just the execution. The pacing in this book comes across as so poor and stretched that I'm loosing any sort of focus as to why Moore may have chosen to tell the story this way. It's just becoming annoying. I don't know any other way to describe it. It seems like Moore is pushing for atmospheric, but the chatty, repetitive dialog so gets in the way of any of that atmosphere and space. Instead, Rachel Rising has become this great example of Bendis comics and "decompression" done wrong, and the book has reached a point where considerations for single issue comics are completely out the window.

But even though I'm completely bored by this comic and will drop it from my monthly pull, I still oddly respect Terry Moore. It all goes back to my reasons typed above. The dude rocks a model of publishing I respect, and that's why he could easily start a cult and get away with it. At the end of the day, I feel that's why Terry Moore fans read Terry Moore comics. They're in it for the mindset behind the comics. Not to say readers don't enjoy the actual books, but from what I've seen - as well as having a close friend who's in love with Terry Moore - it seems Moore's method of creating seals the deal for readers. It's a religion they can pray to, and because it's a religion, they hang out long enough to acquire twenty-some issues of a Moore series and read it how it's probably intended to read.

I'm not going to experience that, though. I'm out. This is my end point on Rachel Rising. Writer Terry Moore killed and buried Artist Terry Moore on this project, and I have no interest in spending time with the killer.

TL;DR Rachel Rising exemplifies poor pacing and relies on redundant dialog more than it should, but when Terry Moore chooses to purely illustrate the narrative the comic excels.

Rachel Rising is written and drawn by Terry Moore. It is self-published by Moore through his line Abstract Comics. You can ask for Rachel Rising at your local comic book store.