Rise #1 (Northwest Press)


CREDIT: Northwest Press

Rating: 4/5 – A Solid Collection of Stories That Spotlight The Effects of Bullying
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Adam Alamo

There are many great causes out there and impassioned artists have traditionally used the power of their medium to support the particular ones they hold dear. One important cause highlighted in recent years centers on reducing childhood bullying through education and awareness. Marvel Comics did their part last year by releasing variant covers across its comic line commemorating National Bullying Prevention Month and bringing attention to this important issue. More recently, independent publisher Northwest Press released an anthology book titled RISE, with various talents from across the comic community collaborating on stories and art that focus on the theme of bullying. I didn’t really know what to expect from this comic book, but as someone who got picked on a bit during my formative years, I decided to give the first issue a try.

I noticed immediately upon flipping to the title page that a pool of great talent worked on this issue. There were a few names I found unfamiliar, but there were others like Marc Guggenheim, Howard Chaykin, and Chris Roberson that I instantly recognized as top tier talent. I was now more excited to dig into this issue to see what it had to offer. What I found was a mix of stories that were solidly good and a few that were even great. Those that weren’t explicitly “bullying is bad and the bully gets what he deserves in the end,” but instead were more nuanced, were the ones that tended to fall into the great category. Of the ten stories in the issue, the following three were my favorites and showcase the range of artistic and storytelling talent found in this book:

Freakshow – Written by Spencer Perry with art by Jed Dougherty, this tale posits a different outcome for Frankenstein’s monster after he’s embraced by some fellow outcasts. The story has no dialogue and relies solely on Dougherty’s beautiful and moody art to guide the reader along. I’ve always thought that this type of storytelling is what makes the comic medium unique and it was masterfully accomplished with this story.

Out of Step – Written by Benjamin Bailey with art by Ryan Cody, this story is less a traditional comic and more a treatise on finding one’s place during the crazy period of adolescence. This story spoke the most to me because it could have easily been written about my experiences in finding a “home” in the punk rock culture. It was an unexpected, but pleasant surprise to find something in the issue that I could relate to so intimately.

Barbie and the Boy – Written by Brad Bell with art by George Zapata, this story demonstrates that bullying doesn’t always come from one’s peers, nor is it always a blatant action. It also deals with the issue of gender roles, which as the parent of a young child is something that I’m keenly aware of. I found this story to be the most touching in the issue because I invariably related it to my child. I can’t guarantee others will have the same feeling, but I think it has one of the strongest messages in the book.

A lot of people don’t like their comics to be preachy, choosing instead to enjoy the inherent escapism they offer. However, a book with a message isn’t necessarily a bad thing. RISE #1 is a solid book that spotlights the effects of bullying, but also that victims of harassment can rise above it. The stories within ranged from touching to maddening, with some corny moments sprinkled in for good measure. I think it ultimately accomplishes its mission of spreading awareness while providing good reading material. In the end, what better way is there to target those most affected by bullying than through comics books, which are the bread and butter of so many children and adolescents?

Reviewed by: Adam Alamo
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