In a small town in rural Wisconsin, the dead are coming back to life! But these aren't your regular rotting, shuffling, braaaains-eatin' zombies, these are ordinary people, walking around with their memories of life, somewhat shocked at having experienced death and lived to tell about it! Officer Dana Cypress and the rest of her small police force, headed up by her stern father, cordon off the town and wait to discover what it all means - why won't the dead stay dead?
I liked the premise a lot as it's a different take on the overplayed zombie genre and has a lot of potential in exploring the nature of death and our relation to it. After all, losing a loved one brings with it an enormous amount of grief - but what if they came back to us? Would it be a relief or a mixed blessing? Also the subtitle - "rural noir" - is enticing as I think of Shirley Jackson's terrifying short story The Lottery and Grant Wood's haunting painting, American Gothic - all to the good.
But Revival Volume 1 doesn't live up to any of it. It reads instead like a mediocre police procedural as the dull characters' witter on about their clichéd and/or boring relationships throughout the fantastic events of the dead coming back to life. When it does get to the dead, it gets a little interesting but most of this first volume is spent repeatedly watching the dead come back to life, shocking the living, over and over again. How are the living going about figuring out what caused all of this? Which character is actively trying to find this out? None of them. Instead it's a largely static storyline with the characters stuck inside the quarantined small town, reacting to yet another dead person returned to life.
It's good to see a female main character but Dana isn't the strong female lead you'd hope for and is more of a walking cliché. For example, it's established early on that her daddy issues are so overwhelming that she's become a police officer just to get her gruff father's approval - not exactly something a strong female would do, is it? Also her character design, job, and the snowy Wisconsin winter reminded me a lot of the main character of Greg Rucka's Whiteout - not a great reminder as I am definitely not a Rucka fan. Nevertheless, it's like Seeley's lifted that character entirely from that comic and transplanted her onto his.
It's not just Dana either, her sister - one of the revivers, interestingly - is the clichéd student having an affair with her college professor while their dad is the emotionally distant police chief who looks a lot like Jim Gordon, and even the Indian/American guy's issues at being typecast by his ethnicity felt over-used and tired.
Seeley throws in a few extra characters like a new age Exorcist - who I think was the bad guy? - and a weird amorphous ghost wandering through the woods but they're more confusing than interesting. The ghost is apparently the ghost of a `Nam vet but there's a ghost baby too? Uh... is it his? And how? Is he a she? Can ghosts have babies? And the Exorcist dude - what's his deal?
Here are two things the book is missing: a plot and a villain. I think the Exorcist guy is evil but I don't know why or what his motivations are. And instead of wondering where the story was going, I kept wondering what the story was - all Seeley's done is bring the dead back which has shocked the living. That's not a story, that's an event, a setup - do something with it!
Revival has potential but I don't think Seeley is talented enough to realise it, he's simply not a good enough writer. Mike "Young Avengers" Norton and his art is definitely the best part of the comic but his character designs here leave a lot to be desired. Too many characters look alike and none are particularly memorable. Revival's like a middle of the road TV show about country cops when instead it should be focused more on the supernatural horror noir story because that's more interesting for the reader. Other reviewers who aren't as enamoured with the series have said they're interested in seeing where the series goes next - not me, I'm done with Volume 1. Will Dana get her dad's approval? Who the hell cares?!