In August of 2011, DC comics was preparing to take a massive gamble by relaunching the publication’s superhero universe with the New 52 initiative. The plan was a new continuity for all of the heroes and a hard reset of titles to number one. The first title released was Justice League #1 on August 31. The month of September would see the rollout of the remaining 51 titles. It was difficult to escape all of the DC lining the shelves, endcaps, and promotional tables.
Most of the media focus was on how the stories of this “New 52 Universe” were going to unfold but they weren’t the only stories starting that month. Tucked away between O.M.A.C. and Red Hood & the Outlaws the astute comic reader would find a striking green cover with the silhouette of a woman exhaling a plume of red (assuming your LCS displays alphabetically and not by the company). The simple three-color cover was a stark contrast to the bright multi-colored covers of the DC universe. The title, Rachel Rising, suggested zombie comic. The name above the title, Terry Moore, suggested it wouldn’t be that simple.
Even before all of the new 52 titles had hit the shelves DC was quick to declare in a press release “It’s official! All 52 first issues of DC Entertainment’s historic publishing initiative DC COMICS – THE NEW 52 have sold out from Diamond Comic Distributors in advance of publication.” That’s right, at the distributor level, all of the New 52 titles sold out. The New 52 titles received second printings with several receiving third printings. Even with all of the incentives dealers received, including the option to return any unpurchased stock, such a sellout is definitely worth trumpeting. If the objective of the brand-wide relaunch was to bring new and lapsed readers into stores DC certainly deserves a mighty pat on the back.
The untold sales story of August 2011 was that of Rachel Rising. The new series from Terry Moore sold out and received second and third printings. Is it possible Rachel Rising benefited from being launched during the same month as the New 52? Sure, but a self-published title selling out at the store level versus the distributor level without a multi-million dollar promotional machine or a familiar character is a Samsonian accomplishment no matter the tide on which it rises.
On May 25 of this year, DC and Moore will once again jointly mark historic occasions. The Warner Bros. Entertainment company is bringing the New 52 to a close and relaunching it with “Rebirth.” Once again dealers will receive a long list of incentives so they’ll order as many copies as they can muster. Around June 17, comic news sites can likely expect to receive a press release declaring all Rebirth titles were sellouts at the distributor level. Meanwhile, Moore will be releasing the final chapter in the story of Rachel Beck. Rachel Rising #42 only has one incentive: The issue sees the conclusion of one of the most finely crafted on-going graphic serials published this decade.
All a reader should know going into Rachel Rising is it’s the story of Rachel who digs herself out of a shallow grave with rope marks around her neck. She has no memories of the last two days or how she died and, in the first handful of issues, has no idea that she’s only the first omen of terrible things to come for the town of Manson. Within the first two arcs, Rachel learns she’s a reincarnated witch of Manson. Rachel and her best friend, Jet, who’s the reincarnation of that witch’s best friend, are being stalked by Lilith and the demon Malus. Malus occupies the body of a 10-year-old girl named Zoe. Zoe has a close relationship with a knife named Jack. This only scratches the surface of the plot but writing anything else would disrupt the experience for new readers (and I do feel like everything I wrote above is telling too much). On the surface, the story is a tightly woven mystery with exclamation points of supernatural horror. At the core, it’s a nuanced existential narrative that explores whether or not we’re defined by our relationship with our past or by the company we keep.
Moore made a name for himself by writing strong female characters in the pages of Strangers in Paradise and that talent continues to shine throughout Rachel Rising. You want to care about these characters; even the ones with a dark and twisted past. The series is a slow burn, so go into it with the expectation of unanswered questions as each arch comes to a close. That can be frustrating for some, but the long-term payoff of sticking with the series is worth the investment.
Moore uses surgical precision when writing and illustrating the comic’s pacing and beats. He understands when a picture can articulate an emotion louder than words. As a result, Rachel Rising often makes a reader hold their breath when they turn the page. It manages the rare accomplishment in the comic book medium of generating audible gasps.
Do yourself a favor when you go to that Rebirth midnight release event at your local comic shop and pick up a copy Rachel Rising Vol. 1: The Shadow of Death. If issue 42 is on the shelf consider picking that up as well. If you see Rachel Rising through to the end you’re going to be happy you own it. And maybe, just maybe, we can repeat history and help make Rachel Rising selling out the untold story during DC’s most recent relaunch.