Page 45 Review by Stephen
"Today I'm going to do something terrible to another human being - I'm going to give back the darkness he gave to me.
"It's not mine to carry.
"It never was.
"The balance is non-negotiable."
So ends RACHEL RISING, very much as it began.
With a great many shivers, for a start.
It began early one morning in a sequestered glade, with a woman waiting above a dried-up river bed... Until a leaf spontaneous combusts, and our Rachel claws herself slowly, and painfully, from her grave... then stumbles her way back home.
I can promise you two things: Rachel's no zombie; she's wide awake and very much aware of everything and everyone around her. But she definitely died.
She just doesn't know who killed her yet.
Now, in the final chapter of this finale volume, we're about to find out.
From the creator of STRANGERS IN PARADISE and ECHO, this has been another tour de force combing comedy and tragedy, mercy and mischief, fury and all the foibles that make human beings the flawed individuals we are. It's the humanity I love in a Terry Moore comic.
I adore Rachel's Aunt Johnny, the mortician who is resolute and unflustered even when out of her depth. And if I care for anyone above all here it is her assistant Earl whose eyes you never see when hidden behind glasses, but who nonetheless wears his great big heart on his equally gargantuan sleeve and doesn't have a duplicitous or disloyal bone in his body.
This isn't misdirection. I do that - a lot. But this isn't it. I don't think Terry has created a kinder character: the ultimate gentle giant.
I might even have started to love Lilith.
"Wow, Lilith... I never pictured you as a gardener."
"Really? I was the first."
Oh, but Mr Moore has a way with deft dialogue.
"You should have more respect for human life."
"I would if they would."
He drops it onto page after page where so many other authors would simply be concentrating on plot mechanics.
The plot mechanics of this resolution are so fiendishly clever, their foundations laid in images whose meanings will only become clear later on. I'd watch what's pictured, picked up and pocketed very carefully indeed. I love it when comicbook creators don't necessarily tell you what you want to know, but show you what you need to know instead. This is, after all, a visual medium.
There's more nature than ever in RACHEL RISING, both flora and fauna, in open snow-swept landscapes and dense woodland populated by deer and dogs and ever so many crows. Life and death are central to its premise, the natural cycle all too unnaturally broken by Lilith and Rachel and - of course - in a different way, by the man who's been slaughtering women then burying them, face down with a rope around their necks in shallow graves.
Aunt Johnny thinks she's finally found a lead: three bodies in the last 18 months, discovered by farmers or utility crews. Forensics may tell them something, but Aunt Johnny knows a shortcut because Rachel's been able to experience the final moments before death both of living souls and/or their corpses.
A child, for example, has just been brought into the mortuary after being run over in a hit and run incident. Rachel reaches in. It was a busy school mom driving an SUV. On her mobile phone.
But Rachel can't make contact with the skeletal remains of the one remaining woman. Perhaps it was the passing of too much time or the lack of soft organic tissue. If only to answer that question, Aunt Johnny casually suggests that Rachel try the remains of a recently dredged up floater. There's plenty of organic tissue there. In fact, there's barely anything solid.
And if you're wincing right now, just wait for the recoil.
Almost everyone plays a key role here including young Zoe, who's neither young nor Zoe. (You'd better see previous, equally spoiler-free reviews.) And I like that. It doesn't do to build up your characters then give only the lead a satisfying resolution.
The build-up is so gradual and so measured that when the punches stop being pulled without warning they will smack you full in the face, dislocating your jaw.
And all the while Ma Malai, the Angel of Death, circles slowly and silently in wait...