In the world of “Revival,” the characters who have mysteriously returned from the dead feel nothing. They may look and appear human (well, save for the bloody tears they cry when they get agitated), but they now lack the capacity to feel emotion as we’re reminded again in this volume. I bring it up now because I possess the same lack of emotion they do, only it’s toward this series. I’ll admit that this title has its virtues, but its main plot leaves me cold and wishing that writer Tim Seeley had decided to tell a straight up “rural noir” about regular people free of supernatural shenanigans.
Said supernatural shenanigans involve those weird glowing ghosts that have been around since the first volume, an elderly revival who sucks a memory out by frenching his therapist, and that old supernatural trope of the little girl who appears to be far more mature than she appears. There’s also the weirdly misshapen guy, but we don’t find out much about him here. Now I can understand the need for all the otherworldly weirdness here as the majority of comics readers need something out of the ordinary to compel them to pick things up. After all, we live real life every day so what’s the point of continuing to experience it in our fiction?
When the results don’t really lead anywhere, as is the case here, that makes a pretty good case for embracing the mundane. Yes, there is some movement on what the glowing ghosts are as they may be the souls of the revivals given etheral form. Or they may not, it’s hard to see where Seeley is going at this point. What’s more easy to grasp is how annoying his “mature little girl” is as she talks about how much she knows without actually ever saying much. I can only imagine that we were meant to be horrified and saddened by seeing her parents’ reaction to what she has become, but I was more glad to see her shoved in the background in the hopes that we’ll see far less of this annoying little trope.
More interesting in this volume is officer Dana’s efforts to look into the death of her sister Em. This leads to her having to recruit her ne’er do well ex-husband into the investigation, and it’s fun to see her try and manage his pot-smoking self into something resembling police work. There are also other subplots like the roundup of the county’s livestock which doesn’t sit well with the locals, reporter May Tao’s investigation into another murder regarding the rednecks who got killed in the last volume, and old Lester’s inscrutable efforts to try and figure out what’s going on and swing it his way. I should be more annoyed by that last bit than anything else, but dang it -- Lester has real personality and even if he doesn’t have everyone’s best interest at heart, I still enjoy seeing him try to get an angle and exert his influence on things.
Then you’ve got Blaine, the professional exorcist who thankfully didn’t die in the first volume. Currently laid up in traction at the hospital, he still manages to be the most interesting character in the entire series. Whether he’s hitting on May, offering his botanical insight into a photograph, or talking about he first time he saw the eyes of a demon-possessed human, the man bucks against convention in all the right ways. I still wish he was the protagonist instead of the blandly straightforward Dana.
While I’m on the subject of replacements, I’d be amenable to the replacement of Mike Norton as the main artist on this series. He does good enough character work, but everything else here is so solid and clean to the point of dullness. It’s the same issue that I had when he was illustrating “Conan” -- Norton’s storytelling is solid but his style lacks the grit which is demanded of the story. For a series about the seamy underbelly of a rural town and the supernatural activities going on here, “Revival” needs an artist with a style that bucks convention like Sean Phillips, Gabriel Ba & Fabio Moon, or Francesco Francavilla. Yeah, they’re all busy with their own creator-owned projects, but I can at least hope.
Much in the same way that I hope this series will eventually set my imagination on fire. As it currently goes, “Revival” seems to hinge on whether or not Seeley will be able to make all of what he’s setting up here pay off in the end. Unfortunately, he appears less able to make it all feel worthwhile in the here and now.