Tim Seeley and Mike Norton's "Revival" heads to the big city in issue #21, as Dana pursues a rogue Reviver who's been murdering people in New York. Moving "Revival" beyond its Wausau setting is a bold choice, as the claustrophobia of quarantine and the confinement of small-town secrecy gave it so much of its mood. Without these elements, Issue #21 does lose some of the creepiness and foreboding, but it compensates with big gains for the series' mythology. It's not uncommon for a series to stagnate at this point in the run, but "Revival" continues to throw more curveballs.
So far, though, New York is not serving as a particularly fruitful setting. Dana goes through the requisite yokel moments, but they're not particularly creative or even humorous incarnations of that tired trope. Seeley is usually great at little moments like this, but these are pretty bland. Luckily, the scenes back home in Wisconsin are still briskly paced and ominously narrated. I have faith that once Seeley moves past the scene-setting, the New York storyline will rise to match the others.
"Revival" has a habit of dramatically introducing new plot elements and then letting them lie dormant for a while, and that can certainly be frustrating in the short-term. However, when they finally bring them back, it makes for exciting "new" developments that still feel coherent with the overall story. The nearly-cremated John Doe is turning into a fine example of this technique, as is the glowing man in the woods. A slow build to the plot does not have to be an obvious one.
Admittedly, "Revival" has gone for almost two years without any clear answers about what's caused the rise of the revivers, and now it's only injecting more questions. Perhaps my optimism about eventual answers is misplaced, but Seeley and Norton make everything feel incredibly deliberate.
Mike Norton does his usual fine work here, especially on one sequence involving Rhodey, Em and an old tale from Don. (The one flaw in this sequence being the way that Em is shown naked for sex while Rhodey mysteriously doesn't need to be.), He continues to use unexpected objects, like dreamcatchers, business cards, or an octopus car, as tools for foreshadowing that surprise me with their effectiveness every time. His use of perspective isn't flashily inventive, but it's relentlessly interesting. Crank! also does a nice job of integrating the lettering with those perspectives so that the reader still gets the effect.
Still, it's serialized fiction, so in some ways it's all about the ending -- and Seeley and Norton know how to end an issue. I do love the slow build of the series, and I appreciate that the audience grows to understand the mythology only as the protagonists do. Though ultimately not impressed by the New York adventure so far, I'm still a huge fan of "Revival" and very excited for issue #22. Issue #21 shows that the series still has a whole lot to say and a whole lot going on.