Review by Frank Plowright
Be it via TV, cinema or comics, there’s certainly no shortage of zombie fiction, so any new example is going to have go that extra mile to impress. Loving Dead starts a little ahead of the pack due to featuring the polished art of Stefano Raffaele whose technique and delicate line can make the most stomach-turning scene look gorgeous.
Raffaele’s twist is that people die and become zombies, but with their personality intact, which makes needing to feed on living humans all the more horrifying. Intelligence also remains, but that tends to deteriorate after a while, with instinct taking over, which is why the Disinfestors exist. It’s better to to kill someone immediately than face what they’ll become. In the meantime, though, there are zombie enclaves where the Disinfestors are content to leave well enough alone provide the zombies stay there. We follow Alan, whose transformation begins with a workplace accident, a nice enough guy who makes his escape from the walled community before he’s destroyed, and meets former Vogue model Lynn. He’s heard there’s a place where zombies don’t deteriorate and fall apart after a couple of months, and if he and Lynn can make it there…
Part doomed romance, part road movie, and part zombie thriller, Loving Dead is a strange beast, and certainly qualifies as something different. At times Raffaele almost crosses the line from stylish horror into parody, but always manages to pull the plot back on course by treating it totally seriously, never making an obvious joke, and he also starts investigating where the zombies came from in the first place. Foreboding, hope and regret are the three main moods beyond terror. Almost everyone we meet regrets something, and the hope is as much ours as the cast’s, as we want them to overcome their surely assigned fates. The foreboding is by means of the narrative captions, mainly Alan’s, but also others. All that, however, only sustains Loving Dead so far, and Raffaele makes the mistake of overstaying his welcome. The art’s still stunning to the end, with a really spectacular monster fight standing out, but Alan becomes a whiny, moody tosser, Grace’s mood keeps changing, and the plot moves too far into the arcane mechanisms of disease control. As an action thriller it will hit the spot for many readers, but it started out ahead of the genre.