The Death Of Death: Image’s Revival

ages-woman-deathYou are going to die.

Don’t worry, it’s not gonna happen right now; but someday, somewhere, while you’re involved in the day-to-day of that thing called life that we all take for such extreme granted, you are assuredly going to fade away; punch your ticket; kick the bucket; shuffle off this mortal coil…

I could go on, but I digress.

And I mean that honestly. To me, a conversation about death is a digression, something to be discussed with fondness, like talking about an old friend whom I haven’t seen in many years.

Weird? Most would agree with you. Frankly, Death and I have a very intimate relationship.

The first time I died I was two years old. I drowned – a pretty beach ball was floating in the deep end of the pool at a water park, and since everyone else’s head was above water, I just assumed it was safe to jump right in. Needless to say, I sunk like a stone – minus the flailing and attempted cries of panic that stones usually refrain from performing.

They’re much more amenable to sinking, I suppose.

But I – well, the two-year-old “I” – wasn’t about to go down without a fight. Or at least a good cry.

Right about now I assume your face is in a confusing battle between smirk and shock as I discuss the potential death of a young child so nonchalantly. But honestly, it wasn’t that scary. I felt the life fade from me; the darkness closed in; and then I was floating, like that beach ball atop the deceptively deep pool I’d unsuspectingly fallen trap to.

And suddenly, water was forcing its way out of my lungs with the same force and offensive intensity as the sunlight that just as suddenly invaded my returning vision.

My cousin happened to see me fall in, and – being the only registered nurse with CPR training in the area (talk about destiny!) – promptly yanked me out of the pool by my hair and resuscitated me back to life.

Ah, but the story doesn’t end there. As I said, Death and I are quite close. The second time I faced its touch, however, it was a far more vicarious affair.

My mother married my stepfather when I was eight, and … well, without going into unnecessary detail, Charles and I had a less-than-friendly relationship. There was definitely some animosity between us – on my part due to his encroachment onto my “only man of the house” territory, and on his part due to the fact that, despite our lack of blood relation, I might as well have been a younger, more belligerent version of him, and no one likes to see their own attitude tossed back in their face.

Here I am digressing again. Let me return to my point.

As I said, my parents married when I was about eight – about a year after my stepdad had been discharged from the hospital with debilitating health problems. He had just been diagnosed severe adult-onset diabetes while he was on the operating table for open-heart surgery, the cause of which was a life-threatening heart attack that had put him at death’s door.

Literally. He was comfortably situated, perusing the décor in Death’s house from the threshold for a good six months or so before his health recovered. Fortunately, recent (at the time, at least) advances in medicine had given him an opportunity to move forward with his life.

…Sort of. The health complications didn’t dissipate, and they only worsened as time went on (as these things tend to do). Still, despite the struggles, he was able to leave the hospital in decent health. He met my mom in the following months and the rest, as they say, is history.

Here’s the kicker: he died nine – count ’em, nine – times on the the operating table while the doctors tried to save his life. When he recovered, they told him that they’d never met a man who’d survived that many revivals in one go. Needless to say, death was something that was regular dinner conversation at my house when I was a kid.

But the tale continues…

Throughout my youth, Charles and I had a very tumultuous relationship. There was a lot of love there, certainly, but a lot of bitterness and frustration too – emotions we both held within us that had nothing to do with the other person, but that we directed at each other nonetheless. Events that brought most families closer together only served to divide Charles and I further, and over the years the space between us became so vast that we could barely see the person on the other side – even though they were right in front of us.

As high school began, Charles and I slowly became more comfortable with each other. He started seeing less of a stubborn, foolish boy and more of a man (though stubborn and foolish I remained). I, in my maturing adolescence, spent more time listening than talking, and started to understand more and more why he’d always been such a dick to me – he, like me, had done whatever he damn well pleased without considering the consequences, the result of which was a painful year of constant surgery, culminating in a record streak of nine deaths on the operating table. While I thought he was trying to get all up in my business all the time, I realized that he was just trying to keep me from doing the same stupid shit that had put him on death’s door himself.

It was in the midst of this realization that he made his exit.

The sudden end of a life, even one that you never really appreciated, forces one to face certain facts about human life. Some of these facts you arrive at immediately, some over time and reflection. Nonetheless, the most important of these facts is both the simplest to grasp and the hardest to accept:

No matter who you are, no matter how you rail against it, no matter how many vitamins you take or how much botox you jam in your lips and cheeks and tits, you are going to die.

But … why?

That was the question that burned in me as I struggled to face my mortality in my late teens. Why give us all of this wonderful shit to do if it’s just going to be taken away from us? Wouldn’t it be better to live forever? Why put an end date on the party when we could achieve so much with another hundred, or thousand, or million years to learn and build on?

If life is such a sweet gig, why does it have to end?

Revival-is-a-small-town-slice-of-farm-noir-NR1HQLBA-x-largeThis is the question that permeates Revival, a noir-style comic created by writer Tim Seeley (Hack/Slash, New Exiles) and artist Mike Norton (Runaways, Gravity).

Wait – that’s a bit of a misrepresentation. That particular question isn’t fully articulated … at least not yet; nevertheless, the general theme is the same: namely, mortality – what it means for us, why it’s part of us, and what terrible things we can do when it disappears.

Here’s a quick rundown: the small town of Wausau, Wisconsin, a place that very likely is absent of a single resident who could spell the word “significant”, is suddenly thrust into the spotlight.

The reason? For causes that are as yet unknown, there is a small group of people who have died … and returned to life.

Among this group, known to the town’s residents as “revivers”, is a young girl named Em. Of all of the revivers, Em is the most important, for three particular reasons:

First, her father is the sherrif — and in a crisis, he might as well be the mayor.

Second, her sister is the head of RCAT, the Revitalized Citizen Arbitration Team, a partnership of police and the Center for Disease Control that is responsible for protecting and investigating revivers.

And third, but most importantly, Em is the focus of a murder investigation.

Her own.

That’s all I’ll tell you, folks. The tale Seeley tells is such an impressive work of mystery that it deserves a moment of your time. Never have I read such a comic – simultaneously suspenseful, spiritual, political, and profoundly human through to its core.

Revival is about mortality, but it’s also about people. In reality, that’s what mortality has always been about: not just what we do when we’re alive, but the impact we have on each other when we’re gone.

See, as I eventually learned over the years since my dad’s passing, there is a very important reason why we all die. It’s not as simple as it seems, but life is precious only because it ends. It’s the fact that we all know we’re on borrowed time that makes every second priceless. Without an end to the story, the plot gets repetitive and cliché, like every soap opera ends up becoming (usually by the second episode…).

And this is apparent in the actions of many of the revivers: as the main plot moves forward hour by hour in the quarantine zone of small-town Wisconsin, some of those who’ve returned take their revival as a curse. Sadly, some of us really do want to die – and who are we to remove their right to do so?

Uh-oh, another controversy at the heart of Revival. As I said, this one keeps the gears turning on so many levels that you’ll need to take a few breaths in between issues.

Long, deep breaths.

Feels good, doesn’t it? Enjoy it while you can.

It won’t last forever…

Until next time.

-Benjammin’

Ben’s Grim Corner

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About zahrahthustrah

I am all that I am and could be nothing else. Trust me, I've tried.

Posted on February 2, 2014, in Image Comics, Revival and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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