By: Terry Moore (writer/artist/letterer)
The Story: Bad things continue to swirl around the hamlet of Manson.
Review (with SPOILERS): This was a good issue, but it illustrates several frustrating things about the series.
Let’s start with the positives since this is an essentially good comic book. The one thing you can never get away from is how nice Rachel Rising looks. It kinda goes without saying that a guy who publishes an instructional books called “How to draw women” and is famous for the female-centric Strangers in Paradise would draw excellent female characters. But, often when we’re praising how well an artist draws women (especially when the reviewer is a heterosexual man), we’re just talking about the fact that the women are attractive. Terry Moore really takes it a step further. The ladies in Rachel Rising look like real women. They’re all attractive, but Moore is able to give them little bits of reality that is usually missing from comic book women. I mean, in the opening scene, a few of the bad witches are doing something outside of town, and I thought to myself while reading, “Geez…..they look like they probably haven’t had a bath in a few days. I’ll bet they kinda stink.” For all the comics I’ve read in my life and for all the vigorous things you see female characters doing, I don’t think I’ve ever considered whether Ms. Marvel can get BO if she doesn’t take a shower regularly. There is just something about the way Moore draws women that makes them come across as real human beings rather than some idealized creatures that you’d never actually see in real life. We all know women who look like the characters in RR.
Another thing that always strikes me about Moore’s evil witches is that they don’t look like bad people. We’ve seen these characters do some pretty awful stuff over the course of the series, but the physical rendering of the characters makes me almost see them as victims; they’re just women who got possessed by the spirits of evil witches. It makes it hard to really hate them as a reader even though they’re preparing to do some pretty terrible things.
It’s also interesting to note that Moore’s male characters are nowhere near as complete-feeling. Sure, they’re well drawn and have pretty good facial expressions, but they just don’t seem as richly characterized as his female characters. I’d never really noticed this before this issue. I wonder if that’s intentional to make sure the men aren’t the focus of the story or if Moore just doesn’t draw men quite as well?
Now for the frustrating parts of the issue…..
Unfortunately, this issue is exhibiting a lot of problems that are grouped under the heading of “Writing for the trade” as in writing your single-issue comics such that they make a convenient trade-paperback collection of 5-6 issues that can be sold on Amazon for years and years. Personally, I do not like to consume my art this way. I want to have periodic installments of a story where each installment is released at the same time and where the “community” can discuss and enjoy together. With trade-paperbacks, it’s just people reading alone in their rooms and what’s the point of that? I know that many people it that way, but I don’t think even the biggest trade fan can argue that the experience is enhanced when you can discuss and enjoy a work of art together. Of course……not all comics are art that really merits discussion, but RR qualifies and I think it is lessened if nobody talks about it.
RR is veering into two dangerous “writing for the trade” areas. One is that this middle section of the story is getting overlong. We’ve know the rough dimensions of the story for 6-7 issues now. We know that these evil witches are going to attack Manson so I wish they’d just get on with it. I know that we’re getting little tidbits of new witches every issue, but it isn’t as if back in issue #12 we said, “Wait…..the witches cannot attack YET because we still need _______ to arrive.” Sure, the arrival of ________ may make the witches more formidable, but since we didn’t know who ________ was, we hardly anticipated her arrival and gasped at how screwed humanity is now that _______ is finally on the scene. Instead my thought is, “Okay…..so now they have another witch. Can they attack now so we can move into the resolution phase of the story and see how Rachel/Jet do something to stop the witches?” This extended story isn’t as obvious in a trade where something only needs to happen every 5-6 issues, but it is annoying in single-issues where nothing seems to happen for months at a time.
The other dangerous “writing for the trade” problem that we’re seeing is that I’m losing my grip on certain parts of the story. I think there is a concern among writers that they don’t want their trade-paperback to have reintroductions of the characters every ~20 pages because it looks weird. Reintroductions needn’t be weird and reminders of what they are doing don’t have to be repetitive. The Walking Dead has managed to be a wonderful experience for both single issue and trade readers for years. It would seem that if the story is slow to develop (as it is in RR), you’d at least get really familiar with the characters because you’re seeing them over and over. But, I honestly have no idea why these bad witches are out in the forest and I’ve forgotten what is going on with Malus and the Priest.
Conclusion: An okay issue. The art is lovely and you won’t see more three-dimensional female characters anywhere in comics. But, this series is starting to show big “writing for the trade” problems and I wouldn’t fault anyone who switches to trade on this series (even if that’s not how I prefer to enjoy a story).