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Comic Book / Rachel Rising

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Rachel Rising is an Urban Fantasy comic series with a focus on horror and the supernatural by Terry Moore, best known for Strangers in Paradise and Echo.

The story begins with a young woman named Rachel clawing her way out of a shallow grave in the woods around the small town of Manson, where she lives. All the while a mysterious blonde woman dressed in a white coat watches as Rachel staggers out of the woods. A disorientated Rachel makes her way home, rests, then sets out to find the people she trusts most (her Aunt Johnny and Jet, her best friend since childhood) to try to make sense of things, including why it's several days later than she thought, why she can't remember what happened to her that caused her to wake up in the grave, and why some people she encounters who know her refuse to believe that she's really Rachel.


Meanwhile, the same woman that watched Rachel rise from the grave is making her way around town, causing mayhem in her wake, with a specialty for causing people to murder their loved ones. In particular, she targets and follows a young girl named Zoe, who takes to murder with unnerving skill. When Rachel and Zoe meet and Rachel tries to confront the woman in white, what had been a bad couple of days for Rachel and Zoe becomes some very bad days for everyone around, and reveals multiple powerful supernatural forces who plan on using Rachel, Zoe, several others and the town of Manson itself as part of their designs.

The series would concluded with issue #42 in May of 2016, which brought the story up to 7 trade paperback volumes. At one point there was talk of adapting the series for television, but that fell through in 2013 and Moore hasn't found any other takers for the script.


Tropes in this comic include:

  • Aborted Arc/Faux Shadowing: The writer with the yard full of corpses was being set up as Rachel's killer, up to and including him reacting with shock at a picture of her alive and him coming home to the little girl who saw Rachel's spirit walking around staring at him...only to disappear from the story and never be addressed again, with a last issue twist of a completely different character being her killer instead.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: An In-Universe case regarding Carol apparently freaking out and trying to poison the entire main cast. Johnny claims that the note left behind doesn't fit either Carol's handwriting or way of thinking, and Rachel offers the possibility that Malus may have possessed her and forced her to take those actions. (Which he has certainly done before.) However, Angel of Death Ma Malai reacted to Carol the same way she does to bad people. So either the gang is wrong, or Carol had some other skeletons in her closet we don't learn about, or Ma Malai treats people who've been controlled by Malus as though they're responsible for any evil committed while possessed, which is a pretty horrifying prospect.
  • The Antichrist: The demon Malus wants to produce one, even quipping about how he will need far fewer generations to produce his "avatar" than God needed to produce the "avatar" we know today as Jesus.
  • Asleep for Days: Rachel has a tendency to do this due to her condition. When Aunt Johnny takes her home following the fall off the club roof in volume 1, she's "asleep" for 36 hours and impossible to wake.
  • Asshole Victim: They tend to show up regularly. Misogyny or being sexually abusive to women or children will usually mark you for a quick death. Malus gets Zoe to kill someone he claims is this, but given how manipulative, evil, and untrustworthy Malus is, odds are he simply had Zoe kill an innocent and lied to her.
  • The Beastmaster: One of the two witches following Lilith commands a pair of wolves.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Lilith and Malus originally struck a pact to turn Manson into Hell on Earth. Malus always had a secret plan to create The Antichrist, which Lilith initially opposed when she found out, although Lilith later considered changing her plans to a Kill All Humans scale herself. Eventually Lilith very reluctantly backs down from this and instead joins Rachel and Zoe in an Enemy Mine scenario against Malus, leaving him as the sole Big Bad.
  • The Blank: Ma Malai, the local Angel of Death, has a face that is more like a rough outline of a face than an actual one. At least until the soul of the dead take her hand and are judged. Some get a Nightmare Face and punishment, some get a gentle smile and being escorted to the afterlife.
  • Bury Your Gays: Zigzagged. Aunt Johnny, who is apparently a trans woman in a relationship with another woman, gets saved from the edge of death after an attempt was made to poison all the protagonists at once. Her partner Carol wasn't so fortunate, however.
  • Compelling Voice: The woman in white has some version of this, that lets it easily talk people into murdering loved ones.
  • Creepy Child: Zoe, in spades. Spending 40+ years as host to a Fallen Angel/demon who wants to destroy all of creation and wants to eventually make you the mother of his Antichrist baby will have an effect on a person.
  • Creepy Mortician:
    • Aunt Johnny is a mortician, and while she's not creepy she does certainly have the wry sense of humor thing going, along with an admitted lack of skill in dealing with the living.
    • Later Malus claims that mortuary assistant Robert Mann was the true Jack the Ripper, and it appears to be true in universe, judging by Rachel's vision when she holds the knife Malus calls "Jack".
  • Dark Is Not Evil Rachel tends to dress entirely in black following rising from the grave, complete with "Uh-Oh" Eyes (which Johnny theorizes is a result of blood vessels in her eyes bursting as she was strangled) and a nasty scar around her neck, but she's a straightforward protagonist who isn't evil or even an Anti-Hero.
  • Dead All Along: Rachel is initially in denial about her death, despite everything. Johnny eventually makes a list of all the physical signs that Rachel isn't alive. Doctor Siemen chimes in during a later scene by adding that even people in a medical coma with cold packs couldn't survive the sort of systemic rates Rachel is showing.
    Tonight you fell five stories onto a car, Rachel. They had to pry you out of the roof you crushed. The EMTs at the scene found no signs of life and declared you legally dead. But here you are two hours later standing and talking to us, so either Jet and I are sharing a grief-induced illusion or you're not dead. At least, not medically. But the state you're in is not conducive to life either. You didn't feel the pin [that was sticking out of Rachel's finger] for the same reason you didn't feel the fall - your nervous system is in a kind of stasis - your whole body is. Your pulse is down somewhere around six beats a minute, your skin is cool to the touch, your breathing is almost're deathly pale but still pink, indicating some, if minimal, circulation. The acute petechial hemorrhaging in your eyes is caused by the blood vessels bursting during the trauma of asphyxiation. The marks on your neck are from strangulation. Rachel, you should not be alive. By all known medical reason, your next breath should be your last.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Aunt Johnny, complete with actual deadpan delivery. Jet also has at least a few tendencies towards this.
  • Demonic Possession:
    • Zoe turns out to be the host of a demon called Malus, and as a result has appeared 10 years old for almost 50 years. Furthermore, Malus goes on to possess a number of others when freed from Zoe.
    • When Natalie is first resurrected, she also seems to have this going on, as a snake crawls inside her mouth and seems to have at least some control over her afterwards, but subsequent actions show that while she's kinda Not Herself, this isn't really the case.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Lillith and her witches enact a plan to poison Manson's water and frame the town official in charge of water safety. To add insult to injury, they also arrange for him to be found with some kind of porn (implied to be child porn or worse) that one of the witches crows is so depraved that people might string him up as soon as they hear about it. Except municipal buildings, even in relatively small towns, tend to have security systems, and the building's security cameras clearly document them putting him under a spell, planting the hard drive containing said porn, and then tampering with the water themselves. The detective assigned to the case gets the man cleared of suspicion almost immediately.
  • Don't Fear the Reaper: Zigzagged. Ma Malai, the local Angel of Death, appears neutral until you take her hand. For bad people she's horrifying and apparently causes their soul to be destroyed, but she smiles gently at and encourages the good. Lilith is actually desperate for Ma Malai to take her, but due to Lilith eating the fruit from the Tree of Life, Ma Malai is forbidden to speak with or take her.
  • Flat-Earth Atheist: Aunt Johnny spends the first three volumes insisting that everything has a rational, scientific explanation, despite seeing things like her niece (and her niece's best friend) come back from the dead several times. Jet even makes a comment that Johnny's attitude toward science can be similar to that of The Fundamentalist towards their chosen religion.
  • Historical In-Joke: Malus claims that Zoe's great grandfather was named Robert Mann, and gives her a very special knife that he calls "Jack" that belonged to Robert. Robert Mann is one of many suspects for Jack the Ripper.
  • Intangibility: Malus is a spirit who possesses human hosts and then moves on the moment they die, even if it's just flatlining before being resuscitated in the hospital. With the permission of the host and the proper spell, however, Lilith is able to talk to him while he's still inside Zoe.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Rachel has it regarding events shortly before rising from the grave. She remembers that she was going to see someone for dinner, but doesn't remember who or if they're the one who attacked her. (And she only has brief flashes of the attack itself.)
  • Light Is Not Good: The woman causing the mayhem has a tendency to dress in white, but that doesn't make her any less evil.
  • Locked into Strangeness: After using magic on Rachel in the third volume, Lilith loses her normal appearance and instead appears a woman with long dark hair and a skunk stripe until she undergoes a rebirth ceremony that returns her to her previous appearance.
  • Made of Iron: One of the benefits of undeath seems to be that Rachel suffers little or no physical harm from things. For example, being knocked off a fifth story roof and onto the hood of a car, (which should have smashed bones and joints and generally turned her into a pretzel) is shrugged off with no complications or signs of damage to her body or impairment in movement.
  • Man, I Feel Like a Woman: Defied. When Jet's body is possessed by James, her past life incarnation, Rachel warns him not to take any liberties with Jet's body. James, who is pretty freaked out by the circumstances he finds himself in, (considering that as far as he's concerned, mere moments ago he was running around in the mid 1600s trying to warn his sister and her coven about the upcoming Witch Hunt, then he suddenly found himself in a woman's body in the 21st century, him being freaked out is completely understandable) is shocked at the idea.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Both Malus and Lilith are extremely good examples.
  • Mind-Control Eyes: People under the control of the woman in white sometimes show this, specifically with Empty Eyes.
  • Mushroom Samba: In the last trade, Zoe starts messing with plants in Lilith's garden and goes on a wild trip, which starts with her having comedic visions of Naughty Tentacles, but takes a more serious turn when she reacts violently to a hallucination and tries to attack it with her knife, only to badly cut herself and nearly die as a result.
  • Names to Run Away From: Nothing good can come of a town named Manson.
  • Nothing Exciting Ever Happens Here: Despite its infamous past and people having a vague, unconscious sense of there being something... off about the town of Manson, crime is nearly non-existent there. Malus claims that he is intentionally pulling a Bait the Dog, with the intent of making Manson seem like an all too perfect place before fulfilling his plan to turn it into Hell on Earth.
  • Nigh-Invulnerability: Malus is the Made of Air variant, as an intangible spirit who can move to a new host if his current host dies. Only magic can do anything to affect him.
  • Only Mostly Dead: After first rising from her grave, any fatal injury that Rachel suffers sends her into this state. Given enough time, she'll get back up again as though nothing had happened. This later applies to Jet, (who winds up in this state regularly, as listed under They Killed Kenny Again) and also Aunt Johnny when Rachel tries to save Johnny from the edge of death by stuffing Johnny's soul into a dog and keeping Johnny's body just barely alive. Strangely enough, it doesn't seem as though other reincarnated witches who were helping Lillith get this benefit for reasons that are never explained.
  • Past-Life Memories: Rachel needs to start getting in touch with them in order to remember things that Lilith taught her in a past life... and to have a chance of standing up to Lilith and the other supernatural menaces facing the town.
  • Plaguemaster: Lilith seems to have a history of visiting plagues on places that have crossed her, with contamination of an area's water supply being something of a specialty.
  • Put Them All Out of My Misery: In the third volume, after going through a rebirth ceremony and being refused once again by Ma Malai, Lilith decides it's time to Kill All Humans.
  • Quirky Mini Boss Squad: What the two witches following Lilith more or less amount to.
  • Really 700 Years Old: We get versions of this that are both milder and more extreme than most versions. Zoe looks 10, but is actually 57. Lilith looks to be in her late 20s in her normal guise as the blonde woman, but claims to be as old as humanity itself.
  • Red Right Hand: Rachel has the marks on her neck but the most prominent one is really her eyes, which Johnny guesses is a result of the blood vessels in them burst while she was being strangled. Naturally, they have a tendency to freak people out. We later find that anyone being raised from the dead, regardless of how they died, seems to have them.
    Woman in Bathroom: WHOA! Honey, I want whatever you're drinkin'.
    Rachel: I'm not drinking.
    Woman: Then you need to sue whoever did your Lasik, cause... damn!
  • Reincarnation: Rachel and a number of other characters are the reincarnation of people killed during Manson's infamous witch hanging and burning.
  • Reincarnation Romance: Thoroughly averted. Rachel's past life had a Precocious Crush on an older boy named James. James, it turns out, is reincarnated in the present generation as Jet, but even after this revelation Rachel definitely has no romantic feelings for Jet, and nor does she when James' spirit temporarily possesses Jet's body.
  • Revenant Zombie: More or less what Rachel is, except she's so fresh and her body is sustained just enough that apparently extreme pallor and the damage suffered by her body while she was being killed are the only surface signs that she's undead.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Lilith, who apparently thinks that taking revenge on the descendants of people who wronged her 300 years ago is perfectly logical and justified.
  • Rouge Angles of Satin: A few instances pop up here and there, although it's pretty minimal.
  • Sanity Slippage:
    • When Aunt Johnny first sees Rachel, Johnny assumes that she is having a case of this. She details how her mind has a habit of trying to distract her during the course of her work by conjuring up visitors. She first assumes Rachel to be another one of these.
      Johnny: Oh, you'd be amazed at the people I've talked to in this building after midnight. Buddy Holly, Jack the Ripper, that beautiful ensign from New Zealand (God, I miss the Navy) ... one night Christ rode in here on a donkey, palm leaves all all over the place. That was a mess. I saw Elvis in the bathroom, go talk to him.
    • Lilith appears to be undergoing a much larger and more destructive case of slippage that becomes evident in Volume 3, but really stretches back to before the start of the series. Lilith finds living on Earth among humanity nearly unbearable and is desperate to die, but Ma Malai, the local equivalent to the Angel of Death, will never take her. In a fit of despair after not being allowed to die once again, Lilith for the first time declares a new intention; to wipe out all of humanity. She eventually backs away from that goal, at least in the short term, but only due to practical reasons and Rachel's nudging. Even after allying with Rachel against Malus, Lilith still has a strong tendency to treat people like insects.
    • Doctor Siemen's sanity slippage, as while not as destructive as Lilith's case, is nonetheless pretty serious. He keeps the preserved body of his wife in his house, apparently trying to find ways to bring her back to life. He claims to everyone who knows him that his wife has become agoraphobic.
  • Seers: Rachel starts tapping into a talent for mind reading and telling the future after her death.
  • Sinister Minister: Malus possesses the body of a Catholic priest, and poses as a benign and fatherly figure for Zoe while attempting to turn her into his disciple.
  • The Stinger: Perhaps the first comic book to pull a Marvel Cinematic Universe after-credits scene in the final issue. After having confronted her killer and being mortally wounded (but also killing him in return), Rachel dies again, and as she is dying she hopes that it will be for the last time. She then wakes up in a morgue with Zoe and Lilith, and Zoe cheerfully informs a less than pleased Rachel that they have to go and find other children Malus had while on Earth and is trying to use for his plans. The series ends there.
  • Stupid Evil: Malus would be more dangerous if he could go longer than a couple of hours without committing some fresh atrocity, usually for no better reason than because someone or something was a minor irritation to him. His impatience and inability to interact with any human being without wanting to kill them tends to trip him up.
  • They Killed Kenny Again: Jet tends to die and come back to life a lot.
  • Time Abyss:
    • The mysterious woman who instigates so many of the events of the comics is Lilith, the first woman, who Eve later replaced as Adam's lover.
    • Later we meet Malus, a Fallen Angel. He's been around for even longer.
  • Token Evil Teammate: In the last arc, Lilith joins forces with Rachel against Malus. Notably, the story is very upfront about the fact that Lilith hasn't become any less evil, she's still indisputably a murderous, hateful person willing to kill people at the drop of a hat for the pettiest of reasons, but she's also the only person that can help Rachel defeat the Fallen Angel Malus. Cue Rachel learning to make the best of the situation.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Jet and Rachel are this. Jet is a foul-mouthed mechanic who is often treated as One of the Boys, is never seen dressing in skirts or other "girly" clothes, and has casual flings with various current and former partners. Rachel on the other hand tends to dress and act in a more feminine manner. Naturally they're best friends and have been since childhood. And hve known each other in previous lives as well.
  • Touch Telepathy: Rachel develops a version of this, including being able to read events from dead bodies.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Manson. Aunt Johnny talks about the mass execution of witches and grisly unsolved murders that have taken place in the town when first accompanying Rachel to the site of the grave. This turns out to only be the first taste of just how dark it gets.
    You know how Firehill got its name. It's haunted. They hanged them here and set their bodies on fire in view of the town. One hundred women, slaughtered for witchcraft. ... They found half a boy in these woods, back in 1963. His body was 300 years old. They never found the rest of him. At the time the theory was that he was the victim of a bear attack, but I examined the bones for a forensic lab in '82 and found sawtooth serrations.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: We see Zoe engaged in a fair amount of this. Jet and Rachel made a childhood pinky swear to be best friends to the grave and the afterlife. When Rachel points out how weird it is for young kids to do something like that and asks what sort of kids get it into their minds to make such an oath, Jet replies "Kids that live in Manson."
  • "Uh-Oh" Eyes: Rachel has them after coming back, and combined with a nasty mark around Rachel's neck and Rachel's own memories of her killer having a rope, Johnny theorizes that it's a result of Rachel being strangled and the blood vessels in her eyes bursting as it happened. Later however, we see that others brought back from the dead, regardless of the circumstances of their death, have them too. And Zoe gets them while using the very special knife that Malus gives her.
  • Unreliable Expositor: A lot of exposition comes courtesy of either Malus or Lilith. Neither is trustworthy and both are willing to twist the facts to suit their purposes.
  • Wham Shot: The first TPB ends with one. Jet, dead due to the car accident she, Rachel, and Johnny were in, is lying in the morgue. For three panels she simply lays there, eyes closed. In the fourth, her eyes open, and they look just like Rachel's.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: Apparently this problem plagues Moore a bit.
    • During a tense conversation with Lilith, Malus claims they are only 5 generations from the day of Firehill. Malus must be using a different definition of generation than most people if 300 years = 5 generations, especially considering that historically speaking people in the US were generally having their first children at somewhere around 20 years old, and thus creating a new generation. The word he wants is lifetimes.
    • At one point point Rachel makes a snarky comment about Jet tweeting all through class during high school. Rachel earlier said that she's 28, and from everything we see Jet is about the same age. The story started publishing in 2012 and is set in the same time, (Lilith talks about how Zoe is 57 and was born in 1955) and Twitter only was founded in 2006. So even if they were using Twitter the moment it became available, Jet and Rachel would have needed to still be in high school at 22 in order to tweet during a high school class. (For anyone reading this who isn't from the US, 18 is the usual age for high school graduation.)
    • Malus claims to a woman who is "pushing 50" that Zoe is old enough to be the woman's mother. As noted above, Lilith puts Zoe at really being 57 years old. While there are while there is a relatively small group of recorded cases of girls around 8 or 9 years old or younger giving birth, it certainly isn't the norm, nor is it what's generally meant when people say that somebody could be their mother or their father.