“Rachel Rising”#29 by Terry Moore begins with Zoe sitting on a bench, looking like a cute and demure French girl in her beret and wool coat. Aptly, Moore has a pointed quote by Margaret of Valois on the first page. Of all the characters in “Rachel Rising” Zoe’s “poison” is the most “hidden”; ergo, she is the most dangerous character in the story.
Zoe is stalking a woman that she believes Malus is currently possessing. An almost silent two-page lead-in builds mood with its picturesque changes of camera angle. Moore has always been able to make precipitation beautiful without adding gloom. He’s an expert with black and white, and his linework creates depth and evoke the wetness and chilliness of rain.
Due to Moore’s facial expressions, the woman’s reaction to Zoe feels genuine, and makes the reader question whether Zoe’s got it wrong. This makes for a taut confrontation scene between predator and prey.
Zoe is a killer, and it’s not clear whether she’s past redemption. She seems at times to have no conscience or remorse, and yet she’s also shown to be capable of empathy and even compassion. She’s hard to dislike, and her humor is endearing while her scary competence is intoxicating. With her wits, capacity for quick action and sharp tongue, Zoe steals every scene she’s in. Wherever she happens to be, the potential for violence is immediately ratcheted up. Despite the regular reader’s knowledge this far into the larger story, the disconnect between Zoe’s innocent appearance and her capacity for mayhem equals automatic dramatic tension.
The other half of “Rachel Rising” #29 follows Rachel as she traces her murderer with through some old-fashioned detective work. Rachel shops for rope at a hardware store, and her conversation with an employee has even stronger facial expressions and body language than Zoe’s sequence.
The resolve in Rachel’s posture gives her an icy poise and demeanor, and it strengthens the effect of her intimidating height. The conversation with the store employee takes two unexpected turns when Rachel announces her agenda: eye-for-an-eye revenge. Rachel could probably have gotten the information she needed without loosening her scarf. She could have taken a photo or made a mold. However, Moore’s choice is maximally dramatic, and Rachel’s candor also shows she’s not afraid. The employee’s silent and then impassioned reaction is the emotional climax and best moment of “Rachel Rising” #29. It’s easy to forget this is a conversation between two characters. Moore’s pacing and plotting make a simple shopping trip riveting.
Zombies and a child killer are, if anything, more fantastical than the crime family power struggle and three-way love triangle of Moore’s “Strangers in Paradise.” Yet there’s less suspension of disbelief required for “Rachel Rising” than for Moore’s earlier work. He’s become more subtle in technique and timing, and less melodramatic and far-fetched in his plotting, without losing his epic sense of scale or range of feeling. The result is that his work is more believable now and thus more poignant.
In Moore’s previous stories, the lines between the good vs. bad characters were pretty clean, but the lines are blurring more in “Rachel Rising”, particularly with the character of Zoe. “Rachel Rising” #29 revolves around the theme of revenge and how what goes around, comes around. It’s strange how delicious and how justified Zoe’s and Rachel’s violent goals feel. Moore’s never had a lack of aggressive, physically dangerous female characters in his comics, but in “Rachel Rising,” the violence feels darker because it’s less humorous and more bloody. “Rachel Rising” #29 is a strong issue of a strong series. Moore further deepens characterization for two of the main characters, and the plot is freshened by several sharp, small twists.