There are so many zombie comics out there right now. So very many. Ever since before “The Walking Dead” came out, there have been so many zombie comics, and the success of Robert Kirkman’s comic and the resulting TV show have just ensured that even more zombie comics would get released. So when Tim Seely and Mike Norton’s “Revival” series was announced, I thought the previews looked interesting, but not enough for me to add it to my pull list. That was a mistake, because it’s plenty interesting and entertaining.
Our setting is small, rural Rothschild, Wisconsin, which is your typical sleepy small town until one day, unexpectedly, inexplicably, the recent dead are returned to life. But they’re not ravening, brain-eating zombies — they’re intelligent, they remember who they are, their personalities are intact. They’re not even evil. They’re just people. Not that they’re normal people — all of them heal from all injuries at an astonishing rate, and they’re a lot stronger than they used to be. The “revival” didn’t happen anywhere else — just in this little Wisconsin town. So the government has the town under a quarantine ’til they can figure out what’s going on. And the town is surrounded by curiosity-seekers and religious fanatics who think there’s a conspiracy to keep a miracle from the masses.
Enough background? Our main characters are Dana Cypress, a police officer and daughter of the town’s police chief, and Martha Cypress, Dana’s sister, a college student, and — as we learn at the end of the first issue — a secret reviver. Martha was murdered, but she doesn’t remember who killed her, so she and Dana are concerned with discovering the murderer.
And there are concerns that the revivers may not have come back entirely right. One of them, an elderly woman, is soon driven mad because she can’t wear her false teeth anymore. Her teeth keep growing back, no matter how fast she pulls them, and the unpleasant sensations eventually drive her to murder. Martha’s self-destructive urges are growing stronger. Someone in the community — possibly a reviver — is killing other people. And there’s something running around out there in the wilderness — possibly a ghost, possibly an alien, possibly something entirely other — and no one really knows what it is. Can Dana and Martha discover what’s happening around them, what caused the dead to rise, who killed Martha the first time… or are things just going to get bloody?
Verdict: Thumbs up. This has been promoted as a “rural noir,” which I mostly don’t get. Yeah, there’s some cop work, and everyone seems to have secrets, but that’s not enough to make it noir for me. This is horror with the nice added twist of the zombies being pretty normal people.
The art and writing are both fantastic, and the characterization — over a whole town, with dozens of major and minor characters — is just superb. Unlike lots of comics with large casts, you don’t really lose track of who all the characters are. They’re all distinct people, and they all make sense.
The horror is, for the most part, the slow burn variety. Yeah, we get plenty of good, bloody, terrifying moments where various people get carved up by other people — and then heal themselves up again so they can carve up some people on their own. But the horror that drives this story forward is behind the scenes, under the ground, under the skin. What separates life and death? What separates sanity and madness? What separates good and evil? Where is the line, and how close can you get to the edge without going too far, past the point where you can get back? A little blood and guts is nothing compared to that.
The series is available in a couple of trade paperbacks, as well as the ongoing series. Visit your local comic shop and pick ’em up.