“Rachel Rising” #16 by Terry Moore is a reader-friendly transition issue, with Moore checking in with three clusters of characters: (1) Team Rachel, consisting of Rachel, Jet, Aunt Johnny and Carol, (2) Team Lilith, consisting of Lilith, Hannah and Mary Scott and (3) Zoe and Malus-possessed priest. Transition issues often lack in suspense and action, but that’s not the case with “Rachel Rising” #16. Moore’s long-form pacing is comfortable but skillful. After a cozy lead-in scene with the good guys hunkering down over coffee and trading jibes and notes, “Rachel Rising” #16 segues quickly into two compact, dramatic scenes, one awash in fire, and the other in blood.
While the first scene has some shock value, it lacks real suspense because of obvious, melodramatic showmanship and the readers’ knowledge that it’s unlikely Lilith could die by ritualistic self-immolation. The second event with Zoe and the priest is quiet and far more creepy and unsettling. The contrast between the two scenes heightens the power of the ending of the issue.
Moore’s aesthetic choices also work to heighten subtleties. Without color, Moore’s opening scene with Team Rachel conveys warmth and friendship in its domestic interior and the ample text boxes of chatter. It’s a deliberate, skillful contrast to the minimalist, stark hallway with its deep black shadows that Zoe wanders down, and empty, cold-looking spotless kitchen in which she enters to look for a certain special knife.
Moore’s staging and storytelling in the panels directly after Zoe finds the knife is superb. Zoe’s dialogue and matter-of-fact, even scientifically detached, demeanor as she “checks something” is excellent, subtle horror. Her relationship with the Malus is terrible and fascinating in its mix of suggestive power, corruption, protection and exploitation.
Strangely, Rachel herself remains likable but less developed than other major characters. Zoe and Jet (not coincidentally, the two characters who have been possessed by Malus) vie for being the most complex characters in the cast, and Moore’s facial expressions are excellent at conveying subtleties of feeling.
So far, Moore has been slowly developing larger themes of revenge and working in allusions to Judeo-Christian iconography, witchcraft and elemental powers. His use of these themes isn’t groundbreaking thus far, but their presence does add some richness to internal mythology of the world.
“Rachel Rising” has just been picked up for a TV series by Alcon Entertainment, with Moore as an executive producer if the series makes it to the small screen. Fortunately, “Rachel Rising” #16 is a great time to get into the Moore’s long-form horror story. The series has been around long enough for Moore to take the plot and characters through several fascinating turns. While it’s best to start at issue #1, Moore’s storytelling is clear and there’s more than enough in “Rachel Rising” #16 to convince curious new readers to check out the whole series.