The Rise #1 is published by Heavy Metal Entertainment under their Elements label. It comes from the creative team of writer George C. Romero, artist Diego Yapur, colorist DC Alonso, and letterer Saida Temofonte. The story opens with a monologue by President John F. Kennedy. He describes the escalating tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. As he speaks, two mysterious figures meet and begin making plans regarding an unknown third party. Two weeks later, in a mostly empty conference hall, scientist Ryan Cartwright begins his presentation. He demonstrates a serum he has created to remove fear reactions in living creatures.
But, even as he makes significant progress in his field, a tragedy strikes. In a freak car accident, his wife and daughter are killed, leaving him alone. As he drinks to forget the pain, he is approached by one of the mysterious figures from before. He offers Ryan a chance to resume his work and build on it. But science can be unpredictable, and the work that he does could threaten an end to the world as we know it.
The Rise #1 is marketed as the prequel to the Living Dead saga. Normally I would consider a prequel to a legendary film to be a bad idea, which is why I am happy to say that this first issue from Romero is an excellent beginning to what caused the dead to walk the earth. Presented as a Cold War-era thriller, Romero smartly keeps the first issue rooted in the era it takes place in. We don’t see any zombies in this first issue, but it isn’t an absence that is particularly striking. Instead, we see the groundwork. The political maneuvering and clandestine actions that Cold War thrillers are so well known for appears to be the catalyst for the end.
Romero does a lot with only about 18 pages of story here, too. The setting, the stakes, and even motivations are presented quickly but never rushed. It takes a strong storyteller to make 19 pages of a story this compelling and cover as much ground as he does. Normally moving this fast would be a negative, but this is all foundation for the real reason of the story. With this stuff out of the way, we can get to the zombies much faster.
The art from Yapur is solid. The striking realism of the characters and exquisitely detailed backgrounds make every panel a treat. The art does a phenomenal job of helping tell the story as well. In particular, the car crash, which is one of the most effective single pages of a comic that I’ve ever seen. A single page splash of the crash, with overlaid panels of an EKG meter, slowly flatlining, and we know everything we need to.
This is enhanced by Alonso’s colors, despite it being an extremely limited palette. Alonso only utilizes black and white with red highlights. This serves as a smart callback to the original Night of the Living Dead. Also, whether intentional or not, it also echoes the political sentiments of the time. In the midst of the “red scare,” to have every panel be a mix of black and white and red is a brilliant move. The letters from Temofonte are also quite solid. Always easy to read and perfectly placed to keep the art in focus and guide the eyes across it.
Overall, The Rise #1 is a surprisingly great addition to the Living Dead Saga and a strong case for prequels on a story that many would have believed didn’t need one. Romero is excellent as a storyteller here, and the creative team around him brings every page vividly to life. If you’re a horror fan, a zombie fan, or just love those movies, then this is one you won’t want to miss.
The Rise #1 is available through the Heavy Metal website.
The Rise #1
The Rise #1 is a surprisingly great addition to the Living Dead Saga and a strong case for prequels on a story that many would have believed didn’t need one. Romero is excellent as a storyteller here, and the creative team around him brings every page vividly to life. If you’re a horror fan, a zombie fan, or just love those movies, then this is one you won’t want to miss.