Revival, vol. 1

Revival 1Summary: For one day in rural central Wisconsin, the dead came back to life. Now it’s up to Officer Dana Cypress to deal with the media scrutiny, religious zealots, and government quarantine that has come with them. In a town where the living have to learn to deal with those who are supposed to be dead, Officer Cypress must solve a brutal murder, and everyone, alive or undead, is a suspect. The sell-out hit series created by NYT Bestselling author TIM SEELEY and Eisner winning artist MIKE NORTON is collected with bonus material! Collects REVIVAL 1-5 and the FREE COMIC BOOK DAY short story

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Revival, vol. 1, by Tim Seeley and Mike Norton 7.75

‘Revival’ is a series that dropped in my lap unexpectedly, likely put on my library request list by one of the graphic novel-loving librarians with whom I chat when I pop in. I don’t know what compelled me to pick it up over any other book in my pile (perhaps how slim it was), but it piqued my interest immediately.

The main premise is that dead people are coming back from the dead with full memories and without any of the signs of malevolence usually found in these types if tales. It’s basically like a melodramatic version of ‘Les revenants‘, but with undeads who heal their wounds miraculously (yet keep their scars).

…and who can become vicious under stress.

This series’ key focus is its main characters:

  • Dana, a single mom who is a cop by day. Her dad is the Police Chief and they have a tense relationship. She’s just been posted in the unit in charge of investigating these reanimated corpses and it’s only adding to the problems between them.
  • Martha, Dana’s sister, who is having personal problems of her own, and living at home while she sorts that out. She is an intriguing character because she is a bridge between the living and the undead; she’s complex in an unexpected way.
  • May Tao, a reporter who has become a sensation for being the first to report about the incidents, being present for the cremation of a corpse that suddenly reanimated. Why she’s a celebrity is beyond me, since she only reported the one incident, but whatever.
  • Blaine, the villain of the piece, who is a demonologist exorcist-wannabe whose path begins to cross with May and the sisters. He’s a scary character because he’s a parasite, taking advantage of the chaos to make a quick buck, and will resort to violence without reserve. To top it all off, one has to wonder whether he’s a faker, crazy or… for real.
  • A wandering spirit. We don’t know who or what it is, really. It could be an alien for all we know. And we don’t really know how it ties in with the revival. We get a hint of it towards the end of this volume but it’s too cryptic to be 100% sure of anything.

And, of course, there’s a bevy of colourful side-characters to liven things up.

The thing with ‘Revival’ is that it’s filled with intriguing elements, but it’s put together in a shoddy fashion, as though Seeley didn’t really consider the plausibility of any of his plot elements or didn’t care: there are many shortcuts being taken throughout, elements that don’t make sense.

For instance, there’s the matter of the grandmother’s reanimated corpse being able to disappear from sight so effortlessly. Seriously, a naked old woman would be very conspicuous on the “run” like that (I mean, how quick can aging corpse be?). And, at the very least, traces of her would be found in the snow and could easily be followed.

Further to that, how did she know that her daughter’s funeral was taking place that day if she didn’t know that she was dead (having been dead herself)? How did she get to the funeral home without being detected? And, once there, how did she get in without being noticed or alarming anyone?

To give perspective on the weakness of the writing, at no point is it clearly established that this “revival” is an isolated incident. Sure, we know that the town is under lockdown, but we’re under the impression that it might be like this across the country. It’s only much later that the scope is established.

Having said this, the writing is far superior to the art.

I remember when Image Comics was founded by a few disgruntled artists who wanted to have creative control over their work. It wasn’t an entirely successful endeavour, but it did for a while create a publishing company filled with only the best of the best. The art was absolutely phenomenal – groundbreaking, even.

So what happened to the art? I don’t want to be cruel, but Mike Norton simply does not come close to earning his place in the pantheon of Erik Larsen, Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, Todd McFarlane, Marc Silvestri and Jim Valentino.  Clearly, I have lost sight of Image’s focus over the years – but art certainly isn’t it.

It just boggled my mind to see that the female leads all look relatively interchangeable, and that there are some dubious choices like making Asian characters yellow, as though they were nauseous. As well, the proportions (arms in particular) are frequently way off, making people look slightly deformed.

Also, some of the action is simply not portrayed credibly, a prime example being the snowmobile chase at the end: Oh, sure, Blaine can come of nowhere without being heard or seen, and, sure, the girl can jump sideways from one moving snowmobile to the other, as though leaping from one rock to the next.

Sigh…

Still, despite all my belly-aching, I agree with Jeff Lemire (who wrote the intro), that this is an excellent book. Or, at least, an enjoyable one. I disagree with his assessment of the artwork, of course, but this is a book with potential – an exciting twist on familiar themes with enough tricks up its sleeve to sustain interest.

I will no doubt read the next installment when it comes out, in the hope that it’s sharper or that it has more tricks up its sleeve.

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