This one-shot interested me because there are relatively few comics out there that deal with religious faith in a mature manner, without relying on the stereotype of the crazy fanatic.
The Revival is the story of a couple journeying to a revival meeting in Kentucky in 1801. The particular gathering dramatized here was, according to the author’s research, “the largest camp meeting [the United States] had ever seen…. Estimates of attendance ranged from 10 to 25 thousand.” This scope isn’t much seen or even necessary for this particular story, though. Instead, we concentrate on the purpose and drive of Joseph Bainbridge and his wife Sarah in seeking out and attending the meeting.
We’re introduced to various types of attendees through other characters’ encounters with the couple. There are excited youngsters, bombastic preachers, the sick desiring healing, and devoted listeners, all adding up to an honest portrayal of how faith was a significant part of people’s lives, what it meant for them, and how deeply it could affect them.
The art is strong and solid, evoking people that are familiar to us. At the same time, they’re strangers due to the depth of their devotion and the types of hardships they faced in their daily lives. Deep blacks and the use of many small lines for shading give the art a period feel.
The eventual revelation of Sarah’s motive for attending the revival is stunning. Not only is the cause unusual, but it reveals her belief to be even stronger than previously suspected. This incident serves as a significant turning point in the couple’s life, and it’s portrayed with insight and consideration. This comic isn’t out to convince anyone; instead, it explores the importance of belief overall.
Sturm has written and drawn two other comics of historical fiction: Hundreds of Feet Below Daylight, the story of a mining town, and The Golem’s Mighty Swing, about a barnstorming Jewish baseball team. He has also written an alternate take on Marvel’s Fantastic Four, Unstable Molecules, illustrated by Guy Davis and R. Sikoryak.
This comic may be easier to find as Above & Below, a reissue combining The Revival and Hundreds of Feet Below Daylight.