Reviews: Rachel Rising, Superior Spider Man + The Manhattan Projects

I’ve been pretty lucky recently. A lot of the trade paperbacks I’ve been picking up have been absolutely excellent. Here are three of my new favourites.

Rachel Rising. Volume 1 The Shadow of Death (2012) Abstract Studios. Written and illustrated by Terry Moore.

rachel rising

Rachel wakes up at sunrise on a shallow grave in the woods and discovers the freshly murdered body in the dirt is her own. With events of the previous night a blur, Rachel seeks out her boyfriend Phillip. But Phillip has a new girl now and Rachel is beginning to suspect she rose from the grave for a reason… revenge! Collects issues 1-6.

This is without a doubt one of the most underrated comics on shelves right now. It’s a dark and mysterious tale and it had me captivated from the very first few pages.

Rachel Rising is unsurprisingly about a girl named Rachel. Rachel is not your average girl though. She was dead and now she’s not. However before you get any wrong ideas, this is not a zombie comic. Rachel is not undead. She is alive again, with only a scar around her neck and bloodshot eyes as evidence of what happened to her. She’s a very mysterious character, you don’t find out a lot about her write away, revelation are slow and deliberate building onto the overall suspense of the story.

This comic is extremely dark. There is a lot of death and destruction and it will shock you. BUT it is not gory by any means, which is an impressive feat – to make me gasp in surprise without resorting to gore. The art is also completely in black and white. I wasn’t sure about this at first. It’s normally not my thing, but in this case I couldn’t imagine this comic in colour. The black and white and simple style really add to the creepiness of this story. It’s something terrible happening in the most normal of places.

If you enjoy horror, ghosts stories or simply comics with a lot of suspense I highly recommend Rachel Rising. It’s one of my new favourites.

Superior Spider Man Volume 1: My Own Worst Enemy (2013). Marvel. Written by Dan Slott. Art by Ryan Stegman & Giuseppe Camuncoli

rachel rising

THEN!…Peter Parker spent a lifetime living up to the responsibilities his powers foisted upon him, but his story finally ended dramatically in the historic Amazing Spider-Man #700. NOW!…The new Amazing Spider-Man has arrived, and he is better in every single way. Smarter, stronger…Superior. And he’ll prove it, both to himself and the world, when he faces down the all-new Sinister Six! But is this all-new Spider-Man in cahoots with J. Jonah Jameson? And has Carlie Cooper figured out the Superior Spider-Man’s secret identify? Plus: Spider-Man and Mary Jane…reunited?! All this and the return of the villainous Vulture! It’s an all-new era of web-slinging excitement, and it all starts NOW! Collecting Superior Spider-Man 1-5.

The problem with characters that have been around for decades is that often times their stories can feel recycled or repetitive. So I really have to hand it to Dan Slott from bringing us a unique and daring new Spider Man plot arc.

Peter Parker is dead. That alone is enough to throw this series through a loop. But to make matters even more interesting, Doc Oc has taken over his body and taken up the mantel of Spider Man. And of course, being the self-important, genius that he is, Doc Oc believes he can be a superior Spider Man. And for a little while he manages it.

I like Peter Parker. I really do. I think that he is funny, and good natured and an all around great character. But I also love reading things from the villains point of view. I love when writers allow readers to really get inside the villains head and find out more about them, and that is exactly what Slott has done here. Is this new Spider Man a nice guy? Not really. He’s still helping people sure, but his motivations are a little more suspect. But he is an interesting character, who faces his own challenges, desire and obstacles.

I know this plot arc is rather controversial but I actually think it’s a nice change. It’s already been announced that Peter Parker will be returning eventually, so why not sit back and enjoy this look into the psyche of one of his most famous villains?

The Manhattan Projects Volume 1: Science, Bad (2012). Image Comics. Written by Jonathan Hickman. Art by Nick Pitarra. 

rachel rising

What if the research and development department created to produce the first atomic bomb was a front for a series of other, more unusual, programs? Collecting the coolest new series of the year into one super science package. Collects The Manhattan Projects issues #1-5.

This is one of those comics that I feel like everyone is reading and yet I knew almost nothing about the story (except for the line above) before I cracked open Volume One. I actually thought it was about aliens. Like Area 51 inside the Manhattan Projects.

And there are sort of aliens. But there is much much more to this comic than that. Jonathan Hickman is incredibly good at making me believe the incredible. The Manhattan Projects centres around real people, but he takes some major liberties with their biographies. For example, Robert Oppenheimer. In the context of this story Oppenheimer is a twin, and his twin brother, Joseph, is also quite brilliant. However Joseph’s brilliance is more along the lines of Dr. Moreau or Dr Jekyll and he’s goes more than a little mad. The way this is written was so realistic I actually had to google it to make sure there wasn’t actually a Joseph Oppenheimer. I think that’s what makes this series so compelling. It may be filled with over the top science fiction but it is twisted up with real life people and facts and it makes you want to believe (like the X-Files).

The art is also quite unique. It has a way of throwing you off balance, and making you feel a tad uncomfortable. In this way it adds to the bizarre nature of the story.

rachel rising

The end of this volume will leave you desperate for more. You’ll need to know what else this group of mad scientists were getting up to behind closed doors.

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