Revival Volume One: You're Among Friends
Image Comics, $12.99, color, 128 pages
Writer: Tim Seeley
Artist: Mike Norton
This is an interesting little book that isn't going anywhere I expected it to. Which is both a good thing and a bad thing.
When I heard the premise, it seemed really intriguing. The idea is this: In a small town in Wisconsin, the dead revive. But not as zombies or anything -- as themselves. Mysteriously, thirty-something people simply come back from the dead.
Immediately, I thought: Some living people who thought their problems were over are going to have a very bad day. I thought, what about a wife-beater whose wife finally killed him? Now the nightmare for her would start all over again. What about the guy or gal who caught their spouse cheating -- and he or she killed them to stay with their new lover? All of the stories that I've read my whole life where a death at the end solved everything -- or at least ended the problem -- would suddenly have a sequel!
Which is not at all what happened. To my surprise, most of the returnees were really unremarkable people. Most of them seem to have died of old age, so now their families have them back -- sitting on the couch, doing mostly nothing. That's really more plausible than all of my exciting revenge-story imaginings, but ... well, it's kinda boring. What a waste of cool premise!
But not entirely. The first issue sets up what seems to be a fairly self-contained murder mystery: One of the "revivers" was murdered ... but doesn't remember who did it! Our lead character, a cop, must solve this mystery, and has several good leads. (Frankly, one suspect is so obvious it's going to be hard to believe if he isn't the killer.)
A couple of other characters are introduced, and some other storylines, none of which are as interesting as the murder mystery, but do serve to flesh out Wausau, Wis., a bit more -- and fill a few pages. So the ride was going along nicely ...
... and then, toward the end of this volume, several stories took unexpected turns that branch out in wildly different directions, and a mysterious ghost is revealed and dispatched, only we find another such ghost that raises more questions, and then boom, the book's over.
Now, I admit I used to complain about "writing for the trade," so I can scarcely complain when a writer is clearly NOT writing for the trade. But I think I can complain when a publisher collects a set number of issues which leaves the reader so maddeningly frustrated. Had this collection ended an issue earlier, it would have been a nice prologue for the next part. Or had it gone on another issue or two, to at least allow the new elements to settle into some kind of status quo, it wouldn't be such an unsatisfying read. But as it is, both my wife and I had the same WTF moment with the final issue included, and felt rather cheated.
I'm ready to write that off as a packaging problem, though, because I did enjoy Revival up until that last issue included in the trade. Revival isn't a world-beater, but it's a great premise with some very nice characterization, even if the central plotlines aren't terribly dazzling.
The art isn't very flashy, either. Mike Norton's art is workmanlike, almost bland. There is none of the over-the-top, superhero-y razzle-dazzle that mars a lot of Image books, but none of the sensawunda, either. This is a plain book about plain folks in a plain town where even though something remarkable happens, they remain their sensible, flannel-wearing selves. And the art reflects that.
As I said in the lead, an interesting little book. Don't expect Shakespeare, and you may find it interesting, too.