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Another fine mess

Reader fan critic teacher reader fan.

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Revival, Vol. 1: You're Among Friends - Mark Englert, Mike Norton, Tim Seeley Holy cow! A rave from my pal Ceridwen so I went looking, and an insta-download from NetGalley, and--a real kick.

Others can tease out how Seeley's new series contributes to--doesn't just surf but substantively realigns and reinforces--the latest wave of the zombie zeitgeist. (And look no further than the aforementioned, previously-linked review by C.) I want briefly to riff on and rave about the masterful way this volume embodies the potential of the series, as opposed to the stand-alone narrative.

Containing the first five issues/"episodes" of Revival, this volume begins defining and juggling an ambitious array of elements, across three levels of organization.

First, issue one cold opens on multiple points-of-view, giving us a teasing array of seemingly disjointed characters and events: a corpse resurrected in the morgue, the journalist latching luckily onto that story, a police officer and single mom figuring out what she wants to do with her life, a strange white apparition wandering dolorously through the woods, and so on. A good series works like a good magic act: an escalating sequence of enigmas and revelations, teasing us with the tension between the delight in seeing some confusion dispelled (or some disparate elements stitched neatly together) and the delight in happening upon further, deeper conundrums. Tell us too little, and you lose us (unless you're David Lynch); tell us too much, or test our patience with haphazard coincidence or ham-handed prestidigitation, and we actively hate you. Seeley's first volume suggests that he has a lot more up his sleeve, while also offering the occasional white rabbit, which we can ooh and ah over before it hops off stage. On with the act. I ended wanting more, yet utterly bewitched by what I'd learned already.

While such pleasures of the Perils of Pauline are serious, the serial could also manifest a deeper, richer, stranger, fuller sense of community than a single "closed" narrative arc might. Like Dickens or David Simon, a great serial artist doesn't just master narrative mechanics but anchors the heightened and-then of the fictive narrative in a context as rewarding as the roller-coaster of plot. Seeley's characters have complicated psychologies and histories; the town (and its alternate America) suggests cultural, familial, gendered, socioeconomic webs which we've only begun tugging at, teasing out over these first five issues. I don't just want to know what happens next; I want to learn more about this Wisconsin community. I could imagine the resurrected slipping into B-stories, as we learn more about Dana Cypress or about CDC research.

Finally, this complex weave of plot and scene and character dynamics amplifies the resonant thematic oomph of the zombie -- which already, like other Monsters, is a palimpsest of distinct historical investments: the racial subtext from the Caribbean reinvigorated by '60s Romero, reconstructed as capitalist archetype by '70s Romero, linked to post-9/11 paranoia by Danny Boyle and Colson Whitehead . . . or twisted right around into something new, by folks like Daryl Gregory or Robin Campillo. Seeley's zombies offer some new kinds of kicks, while echoing or resurrecting all those old familiar tunes, too.

This is a fantastic read--and a world/author I plan to return to, as future volumes are published.

Thanks to NetGalley and Image Comics for an advance copy.