Much like the juggernaut that is “The Walking Dead,” this new series from Image also deals with the dead returning to walk the Earth. That’s where the similarities stop as “Revival” takes a dramatically different approach to that particular subject. The dead here don’t return as shambling husks, but just as they were before they died and with the ability to recover from (almost) any injury. This “outbreak” is also confined to one small midwest town which is now under quarantine and an investigation from the C.D.C. There also appears to be a supernatural aspect to this event as well as the implications of an underlying cause to it all. So even though the hard work of making this “zombie” series distinct is achieved the even harder work of making it as interesting is yet to be done.
Dana Cypress is a police officer in Wausau, Wisconsin, where these “revivals” have started cropping up. Her father, the resident sheriff, has chosen her to be on the Revitalized Citizen Arbitration Team -- a new unit dealing with crimes relating to these individuals. The reason she’s on this team is because he needs someone he can trust, but Dana nearly screws it up when she brings her younger sister along on her first case and things get... messy.
Contrived as it may be, it also leads into the first real twist of the series and adds to the drama as both girls have a secret they need to keep from their father. We also find out that her sister Martha has a self-destructive streak that has only gotten worse since things started. There’s a lot of similar plot threads strewn throughout this small-town community, but it generally feels more respectable than compelling. Writer Tim Seeley has the beginnings of a good mystery and character study here yet very little here feels shocking or new. You’re not going to read this and go, “Holy crap! I didn’t see that coming! What’s going to happen next!?”
There is a character here who does exemplify that feeling, but he’s only a member of the supporting cast. Mr. Abel is the region’s foremost demonologist and exorcist -- and a certified mechanic as well -- who has a very practical and no-nonsense approach to his work. He also believes that demons have had a hand in this event and from what’s seen here, he may not be entirely wrong about that. Though a lot of his actions may seem villainous, he comes off as more of an antagonist than a “Snidely Whiplash looking motherfucker twirling his moustache” to quote the man himself. We even get hints of his backstory to reinforce this feeling and give him a personal stake in this. He’s a refreshing change from most “religious” characters in comics and I can only hope that he’s allowed to become a recurring character in this series.
Mike Norton provides the art and his work here is a better fit for the material than it was in “Conan.” Granted, I still think his style is too clean to give the story the mysterious and tense atmosphere it wants to have, he’s good with the characters and there’s some striking imagery peppered throughout the collection. Nearly all of it involves some kind of violence, such as one of the revivers repeatedly pulling their teeth out, or getting burned alive, or a scene where Martha getting a serious beatdown in a bar. Hopefully this will serve as a starting point for the man to develop his style to give this story the grit it needs.
This first volume of “Revival” didn’t amaze me in the way that other “first volumes” from Image have in the past year, but there was enough here to convince me to come back for another round. Seeley just needs to take more risks with his storytelling and give us more complex, unconventional characters like Mr. Abel to get me fully onboard. The series could go either way at this point, but there is still quality here. It’s just of a very common variety.