cover image Dead Heat

Dead Heat

del Stone, Jr.. Mojo Press, $29.5 (200pp) ISBN 978-1-885418-10-4

Hitch, the protagonist of this gonzo post-apocalyptic fantasy, may be the most outrageous superhero ever conceived for the printed page: a meathook-wielding zombie whose exertions repeatedly challenge him to overcome the limitations of his deteriorating body. Drawing inspiration from sources that include George Romero's Night of the Living Dead trilogy, George Miller's Mad Max movies and Stephen King's The Stand, first-time novelist Stone conjures a bleak near-future where a botched experiment in genetic research has resurrected armies of the dead as mindless zombies with a taste for living flesh. Endowed with abnormal sentience by a being he dubs ""the other,"" Hitch motorcycles across the country on a mission to prevent the destruction of the world by a nefarious zombie master known as the Golem. On the road, he is forced to fight his way out of a succession of savage confrontations with those who would thwart his quest, including a neo-Hitler pressing humans into forced labor camps, a gang of chainsaw-wielding zombie killers and a cult of religious zealots in thrall to the Golem. Each adventure in the episodic narrative gives Stone an opportunity to indulge in bone-crunching action so deliberately over the top it approaches black comedy. He overreaches only when he steps back from the fun-filled fighting to ponder the existential dimension of Hitch's predicament. As the gruesomely gothic illustrations by Dave Dorman and Scott Hampton make clear, this zombie jamboree is meant to cater to the crowd who help keep the splatter film industry solvent. (Nov.) FYI: Dead Heat is the first original novel to be published by Mojo, which has specialized previously in graphic novels, reprints and story collections.