Introducing an original concept, a unique world or reality, is not an easy thing to do well. You want to find the right balance between telling the reader directly and letting them see and learn for themselves. And there needs to be enough information and explanation early on to hook people, but if you reveal too much too quickly then the shine wears off and you'll lose people anyway. Even truer if the narrative is one based in mystery, in things which even the characters are struggling to understand. So Revival #1 had a challenging task to accomplish, but Tim Seeley and Mike Norton pull it off near-perfectly on every level.
Seeley does a lot of things well here, but perhaps most impressive is his inclusion of so many different and distinct characters. Dana Cypress, the apparent star of the series, is still something of a question mark, but we already know he to be an affable woman who loves and is good at her job on the police force. Through her brief but telling interactions with her son, father, and sister, we actually end up with a fairly full impression of Dana, made even stronger when we get to see her in the field. All of her family members are also clearly and quickly established. Her son, Cooper, is imaginative and intelligent. Wayne Cypress, Dana's father and the local sheriff, is stern without being overly gruff. He may be a no-nonsense guy, but it comes from a place of genuine care. And though Martha, Dana's sister, has the least to do in this issue, she ends up being possibly the most important character we meet, in terms of Dana being able to, ultimately, solve the series' larger mystery.
That mystery, by the way, revolves around people in the Wausau, WI area coming back to life after they die. How long this has been going on isn't spelled out, but Seeley makes it obvious that it's neither a totally new nor very well-established situation. The government, the local police force, and the family members of these "revivers" are all still in the dark about the cause of these resurrections and their implications. And nobody yet knows what, if anything, should be done about it. But the people living in the area, the characters we get to spend some time with, are going about their normal lives, anyway. They might be living in a quarantine, but it doesn't stop them from going to work, arguing with their neighbors, and playing with their action figures. That last one is just Cooper.
Anyway, the normalcy in the face of the inexplicable is one of the greatest points of this debut, because it's so true-to-life. There's a powerful realism at work in every corner of this book, even during the strangest and most horrific scenes.
Seeley gets a lot of the credit for that, but without Mike Norton's exceptional artwork to even further ground this story, I think it would feel far more fantastic. Norton can draw a zebra-horse hyrbid running through the snow and then having its face explode with blood without it feeling out of place. Even the twisted white spirit-monster which Copper catches a glimpse of (and vice versa) looks strangely alive. But Norton really won me over when we got to the old lady in the barn. The panel of her teeth regrowing through her bloody gums only moments after she pulled them all out with a pair of pliers is going to stay with me for a long, long time. Presumably until the next issue of Revival when Norton somehow tops himself. And all of the gore and violence in that scene was just right. Slightly outlandish, perhaps, but only to the extent that it all felt perfectly at home with the rest of the issue.
The back-from-the-dead higher concept of Revival does not, I admit, have me hooked on its own. In less capable hands, this same exact narrative could easily be dry and dull and even a bit trite. But Seeley and Norton are both at the top of their game here, building a familiar yet foreign world inhabited already by many rich, nuanced characters. If they can keep up this level of work moving forward, Revival may well be one of the best new series to come out all year.