REVIVAL features people you could describe as "the living dead," but it isn't a zombie tale. Not the traditional type, at any rate—no one is particularly interested in eating brains, and most of the Revivers are, if not fully coherent, at least lucid. This twist means that the creative team can focus on something other than a zombie apocalypse or a tense struggle for survival.
As a result, the core of REVIVAL is in the family of Dana and Em Cypress, two of the central figures in the book. Their father is Wayne, the local sheriff and the man who raised them after their mother died in an accident. Coop is Dana's young son, who has a semi-reliable father and is having a hard time now that his status quo has been up-ended. Meanwhile, Dana is struggling to figure out who murdered Em and both of them are trying to keep Em's reviver status secret from their father.
Family drama seems small in the face of the dead returning to life like nothing happened, but it gives REVIVAL an emotional core that is intensely relatable. Considering how much the Cypresses have been through already, Revival Day has managed to throw an even bigger monkey wrench into the works. Em is lying to Dana and Dana is lying to Coop, and they're both lying to their father. They have what they believe are his best interests at heart, but that rarely matters when lies are forced into the bright light of the truth. They're stuck on the paths they chose, and no matter how much they plan and hope, someone is going to get hurt in the end.
The complex situation around the Cypresses is reflected in the community they live in, too. Whether they're directly affected by Revival Day or simply on the sidelines, everyone in Wasau, Wisconsin has to deal with the aftermath. Some made peace with their loved ones being gone, and now have to deal with the return of husbands, wives, sons, and daughters. Others are elated to get a second chance at life, but scared to reveal their revived status to their friends. Revival Day was a gift and a curse, a source of joy and extreme paranoia. For every person who was overjoyed to be able to see a sunrise again, there's another who was shattered by the experience.
When news of Revival Day spreads nationwide, things get worse. Wasau and the surrounding area is quarantined and blockaded by the government, forcibly changing everyone's quality of life drastically. A sleepy town is turned into a hotbed of news crews and military Humvees, travel is forbidden, and every move they make is under observation.
What do you think that does to a town? When you turn a quiet burg into a pressure cooker, no one is safe. People can't help but feel unmoored by their new status quo. The new normal for the citizens of Wasau is creeping terror, made all the worse when the government moves in with a detention facility for the revived and an even stronger military presence. Oppression and terrorism follows in the wake of these moves.
Which fits, because while Norton & Seeley never go full-on zombie apocalypse, they don't shy away from apocalyptic themes, either. While the situation in Wasau is about as stable as it can be at the moment, the citizens of Wasau have been pushed face-to-face with hard questions about life and death, and still others have experienced the boundary between the two for themselves.
The horrors of Revival Day manifest themselves in a variety of ways. An old woman takes pliers to her mouth, pulling out her teeth one-by-one as they're instantly replaced. A man cuts himself open live on camera for sexual pleasure. A group of people seek to feast on the flesh of a reviver. A young girl cuts away at her eyelids to make sure she sees God when He appears.
REVIVAL covers a lot of ground, but is structured in such a way that the conflicts that drive it are nested. Dana and Em show you the human cost of Revival Day, the city of Wasau shows us how Revival Day changes a community, and then, just for kicks, Seeley & Norton throw in a little bit of horror, too, just to keep us guessing about where the series is going.
REVIVAL #40 preview:
A creepy tale with a solid emotional core, REVIVAL is available in a series of collected editions and ongoing single issues.