After twenty issues of no-longer-exanimate Midwestern shenanigans, Revival finally hits the big city. Fear not, because expansion doesn’t hinder the series’ propensity for small town drama and a variety of deepening themes. Alternating between Wausau and Manhattan, things stay tense amid a few slight reveals and much-needed story progression. “Revival #21” starts to hint at a widening national conspiracy, and that decision adds considerable weight to the original plot. Seeley and Norton paint the city in a fascinating light, filled with religious zealots and political unrest. If the end of the world is indeed happening, this is where it’s hitting the hardest. Religion is the biggest theme this month, but each of the main characters get a spotlight.
With Dana being one of the first to escape the quarantine, Seeley could have taken the “country girl fish out of water” route, but thankfully he focuses more on the case at hand. That’s not to say Dana doesn’t contemplate the differences, but they’re done in a subtle way that fits with Revival‘s somber tone. The dialogue is, as always, fantastic. There’s a line about wheatgrass that perfectly encapsulates the diversity of these two worlds. This issue has a quick pace to it, eschewing the traditional slow-burn storytelling that frequents the series. We quickly find the murder and get treated to some brilliantly gruesome scenes. Revival has always been more about relationships and themes, but it can do horror well when needed. There are definite strides in the plot that tie back to previous events that occurred eight to ten issues ago. All in all, the NYC narrative is interesting and exciting, becoming more than just another subplot.
Ramin gets quite a few solo panels this time around. Most of them feature someone else explaining a phenomenon, but they’re slowly filling in the holes to multiple mysteries. It’s even possible to feel sorrow for The Burned Man, something that wouldn’t have happened only a few issues ago. Last month’s big Rhodey/Em story-line gets a little screen time, mostly to show their burgeoning affinity. It’s an intriguing subject, but hard not to be wary of how it’ll most likely end. Seeing a fairly affable Em is certainly a large step though. Lastly, there’s a quick focus on Edmund and the remaining Cypress family members. It’s a slightly confusing segment, with dark clouds inevitably forming. Norton’s giant octopus is a nice nod to 50’s monster classics in the vein of The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms or other Harryhausen projects.
Norton also gets to have fun and break out from the drab (but beautiful) snow-covered Wisconsin. His depiction of Manhattan is an eye-opening one. Any sort of protest now involves Revival Day, and some have a frightening, totalitarian-like style to them. “We Stand With Wisconsin” was particularly impressive. Typically with a city as massive as New York, the artist places emphasis and focal points on the main characters, but Norton makes his backgrounds just as important. His work continues to be top-notch. Hopefully we’ll get to see more of this bizarre East Coast vision in upcoming issues.
Verdict: In our previous review, the state of Revival after twenty issues was questioned. Where would the series go? Would it remain enclosed in its setting? Could it work without a zoomed-in perspective? Happily, this 21st issue sets off in a superb new direction. Same captivating mysteries, new sense of exploration. It certainly seems like things are bigger than anyone in Wisconsin ever imagined. So far, the idea to spread out the drama has worked well. Rural noir might be joining up with its urban variation, and this is a good thing. Both creators continue to be on the top of their game. Revival has a long way to go, but the next twenty promises to be even more thrilling than before.
“Revival #21” earns a 9/10