Today I am going on a slightly different path for the reviews. I recently read Revival by Tim Seeley and illustrated by Mike Norton. I was introduced to this graphic novel by the head of the ARRT Genre Study and now incoming ARRT Chair [2014-15], Annabelle Mortensen who is also librarian at Skokie Public Library. [You can follow her rants and raves on the blog Well-Read].
So anyway, I am going to have her introduce this "new to me" series. Take it away Annabelle...
BECKY! You’re not familiar with the graphic novel Revival? I’m aghast. First, I’m amazed I’ve actually read a book you haven’t. (You read everything). Secondly, this is right in your genre wheelhouse: Undead hordes? Check. Midwestern mystery? Yes. Cool artwork, black humor, steely female characters … need I say more?
Okay, I’ll say a little more. Revival, written by Tim Seeley and evocatively drawn by Mike Norton, isn’t pure horror—although it features many horror elements, its creators bill it as “rural noir.” Think Fargo meets The Walking Dead with a soupçon of Stephen King. The intent isn’t to scare as much as reveal the sometimes sordid underbelly of small-town life—in this case, Rothschild, Wisconsin, where on a single day the recently dead came back to life, seemingly intact and ready to resume their normal routines.
The story begins the day after “Revival Day.” Quarantines are called and everyone from religious fundamentalists to the CDC and mass media are clamoring at the borders. Dana Cypress is the police officer assigned to the “revivers,” and she soon learns that some are not as normal as first hoped (a revived old lady who stabs her own daughter in the throat takes care of that notion). Then Em, Dana’s younger sister, reveals that she’s a reviver herself, having been murdered by an unknown attacker days earlier.
Although Dana and Em emerge as the central protagonists, Revival is very much an ensemble piece with multiple mysteries throughout—exorcism, incest, paranoia, grave robbery, family secrets, political shenanigans, creepy ghost-y things and much more. Norton’s visual storytelling is top-notch, providing a great sense of atmosphere and images that are unsettling but not over the top. Every character has an agenda, and part of the fun is figuring out just what the heck is going on—you feel just as off-kilter as Rothschild’s residents as the slow-burning tension builds. (Be advised that readers who love a fast pace may lose patience. Also, it does take some effort to keep the complex plot threads straight. Two trade editions of the series, covering issues #1 to #11, have been released thus far, and there’s a benefit to reading them back-to-back.)
Like Locke & Key (a Becky-approved favorite), Revival is not intended for an open-ended run—Seely and Norton have estimated that the story will continue for perhaps 50 issues. I’m eager to spend more time visiting this weird and wonderful Wisconsin town and reading more of what I think is the most entertaining comic being written today.
Thanks Annabelle. I totally deserved that. I can't believe I missed this series. Annabelle introduced it, so I am only going to talk about my feelings about it as a "horror" graphic novel.
I agree that the frame, characters, and setting are great. And the drawings really enhance the overall feel of the story. They all have a washed out feel. The colors are muted; there is a lot of gray and white, except when there is blood...bright red blood!
The over all story has a supernatural edge beyond just the few people who have come back from the dead (fairly intact and seemingly normal, note I said fairly and seemingly). There is also a specter haunting the woods whose purpose is as of yet unknown.
But the overall drive of the story is the crime fiction angle. This is a supernatural crime story with an overwhelming sense of dread. I would suggest it for all dark, crime fans and people who are interested in looking for a zombie story with an original twist.
I loved the many well rounded characters and multiple plot threads, but some may be a bit confused. Just remember, this is the beginning and we are still being introduced to everyone, the world they are functioning in, and the major thrusts of the story.
Thanks Annabelle. Revived is a series I will return to (pun intended).
Three Words That Describe This Book: supernatural mystery, strong female characters, unsettling
Readalikes: Annabelle mentioned Locke & Key in her review. That is much more true horror. Revival is crime with supernatural/horror elements. I would say it is much more like another favortie of mine, Chew. Click here for my reviews of that series.
Other dark crime graphic novels I would suggest are:
- Frank Miller's Sin City Series
- Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead series
- The Road to Perdition by Max Allan Collins
- From Hell by Alan Moore
Also, The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta is kind of like the bizarro version of Revival.
Also check out this list of rural noir from RA for All. From Breaking Bad to Winter's Bone, this is a subgenre that is growing in popularity.