The Loved Dead

Vertigo Resurrected: Petrefax, written by Mike Carey, illustrated by Steve Leialoha (originally published 2000; this edition 2011): Enjoyable nouveau-fairy-tale romp starring Petrefax, the young mortician from the Sandman arc World’s End. Petrefax hails from Litharge, the land of morticians, and he’s struck out on his own to see the world and offer his services as a journeyman.

He comes to the land of Malegrise, where magic reigns, and soon finds himself caught up in the efforts of a young woman, Calcinia, to bring the awful man to whom she’s promised to justice for the murder of his brother and nephew. Naturally, he falls in love with her.

The story delivers a lot of wit in its depiction of the magic-based Malegrisean society, where demons and ifrits rub elbows with citizens and Roma. Apparently, gypsies are some sort of constant in the universe. Petrefax’s mastery of ways of dealing with dead bodies comes in extremely handy on more than one occasion. He has to keep Calcinia, whose body has died, mobile and at least semi-unputrefied, and he has to deal with a few other unwieldy bodies along the way.

Old pro Steve Leialoha’s art remains fantastic and yet grounded, and the muted colour scheme suits the storyline. Carey’s deft hand with the fantastic is on display here; the fire-demon lawyer is an especially nice touch. Recommended.

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