Revival is one smart comic. It’s billed as a “rural noir” but it’s so much more than that. It’s like Fargo meets They Came Back meets I don’t know, something else messed up, Jacob’s Ladder maybe, or Cemetery Man. That’s the kind of head trip this book hits you with. Revival is also a devious little read, in that it deftly bounces back and forth from the frightening, to the truly disturbing, to the creepy, to the weird, to the odd, and finally settles somewhere in the land of mind shattering terror with a cherry of familial drama to keep the whole thing grounded on top.
The comic takes place in Wisconsin, which I think invites a whole layer of political interpretation and critique of the work (which I’m not going to do, but someone should, you should!), you know, the dead coming back to life, Gov. Walker winning his re-election campaign on the skulls and bones of workers’ rights, it’s there, believe me. Oh and the comic is about the dead coming back to life…sort of. I say that because the comic gets coy in the beginning and it’s a coyness that I’ve found across platforms in multiple medias and mediums. It’s the “no-one-say-what-we’re-talking-about” game, you can see it in Cloverfield, before we finally see the….thing? The uh….Cloverfield…thing….every time the camera passes a television or a radio the announcers are being surprisingly tight lipped and evasive about the giant monster destroying the city. You know how you would expect newscasters to react were a giant monster destroying New York, you’d expect them to say, “HOLY FUCKING SHIT! GIANT FUCKING MONSTERS ARE DESTROYING THE CITY! EVERYONE RUN!”. But because it’s a movie (and a PG-13 at one that) what the announcers end up saying are things like, “When something like this happens, it’s blah blah blah” or “This event that’s rocked New Yorkers” and it takes me right out of the realism, even when it’s escapism and fantasy, there’s a certain degree of realism that needs to be there to be able to fully invest and commit myself to the story. In the very beginning of Revival two radio pundits are arguing about what’s caused “the event” and they even refer to it as, “the event”, twice. I understand not wanting to give everything away right away, wanting to build up to something, have the audience really wondering what everyones talking about, but at the same time, it just feels obnoxious, like someone playing a game.
Glad I devoted a paragraph to that point because really, that was the only fault I found with Revival, and it’s not even a fault so much as it is a problem that I have across the board with countless stories that use the avoidance device to try to build suspense or interest (or suspensterest). Our protagonist is a cop in a town where the dead have come back, not as blood thirsty, murderous zombies (or “geeks” as The Walking Dead on AMC so head scratchingly labeled them in Season One. Hey AMC, WHO DO YOU THINK WATCHES YOUR SHOW?) but as well, pretty much exactly who they were. One woman walks out of the funeral home and returns to her job at the supermarket. Another difference between Revival and other “return of the dead” stories is that it seems like all the dead in this town came back, at once, one time. As in, you can die now and just be dead, you’re not coming back.
Also fans of mashup animals look away as a Zorse (zebra/horse) dies a particularly bloody death in the very beginning of the story. It’s this dead zorse that will be the basis for the first case of the newly formed, “Revitalized Citizen Arbitration Team”. It’s commendable that the book’s creators chose to go with the title Revival as opposed to Zombie Detective. Although now come to mention it Zombie Detective sounds like a perfect sparring partner for Axe Cop…
This “team” by the way, is a team of one, Dana Cypress, our hero mother/cop/daughter/sister. She plays a lot of roles in a very short time and it’s this varied, yet complimentary set of roles that make her an interesting and engaging character right away. Her son, Cooper, has an encounter with something in the woods, something that speaks almost like a human, but certainly doesn’t look like one. Picture Kirby from the old nintendo game, but with a full human skeletal structure inside him, and picture him walking through the snowy woods calling out about babies. Now you’re starting to get all that terror and dread I was talking about earlier.
I don’t want to say too much more about the book because it has some really great surprises and twists in it. The book has a great pace, great art and a smart set of storytelling sensibilities. Revival knows how to bait an audience, and if you’re looking for another angle to approach a different interpretation and critique of it, there’s all kinds of disturbing symbolism drifting in between the shouting scared people, chubby cops and scared parents. It’s a story with teeth, and I mean that literally and figuratively.
Revival by Tim Seeley and Mike Nortin is published this week by Image Comics.