Army of Darkness #1A comic review article by: Jamil Scalese
I love me some Ash/Evil Dead/Army of Darkness. Sam Raimi's cult classic franchise is something I discovered in my "everything is awesome and groundbreaking because I'm 16" phase. I watched those movies multiple times, and read pages upon pages of behind-the-scenes anecdotes and interviews with everyone from Bruce Campbell down to key grips.
The concept of the films -- a goon versus an evil book -- is not exactly vanilla, but compared to the concepts that pop up in the comic tie-ins it's kind of straightforward. The comic world of Army of Darkness can get pretty absurd. Ash is kind of the master at unlikely team-ups and recently he's been featured in comics next to characters like Danger Girl, Darkman, Freddy & Jason, the Marvel Zombies, President Obama and the classic movie monsters. Pretty busy schedule for a guy who hasn't been in a movie since 1992.
With an Evil Dead reboot on the horizon, Dynamite is doing themselves a service by launching a new ongoing featuring one of the most unlikely heroes in all of fiction... except Ashley J. Williams only makes a cameo in this premiere issue. Instead we are presented with a slightly different protagonist: Ashley K. Williams.
Yes, Ash has been turned into a woman. Well, that's not exactly true. In a clever use of the mythology, writer Elliott R. Serrano is utilizing the multiple universe/time travel concept of Army of Darkness to set up something that could be called a "league of Ashes." Kind of like the Captain Britain Corps but a lot dumber and with a penchant for chainsaws.
I like the idea. It's not novel but it gives scope and meaning to the original movies and Ash as a character. Unfortunately for both the book and it's reader it only manages to present ideas and totally fails to deliver a cohesive issue or correctly introduce two new characters to the mythology.
Serrano tries to pack a lot of ideas and techniques into an issue that should have been more straightforward and reader-friendly. While female Ash is still an "Ash" I needed more than a few pages to understand her journey and how she might differ from the original version. The other new character, who is nameless in the comic but apparently is dubbed "Deadbug," is an alien Deadite. Weird, right? And unlike most other Deadites, Deadbug has a kind of an anti-hero thing going on, assisting Ash K. in her misadventures in ancient Egypt. A giant insectoid, this new character is basically a factory of slapstick and idioms, and doesn't seem to have utility to the plot at all (and honestly slows the whole comic down with his appearance). And yeah, his name is Deadpool and Ambush Bug combined. I think I have a concussion for as hard as Serrano hit me over the head with that one.
My immediate reaction to the art of Marat Mychaels was that it had an uncanny similarity to Rob Liefield. Being a dutiful little reviewer I found out that he's basically Rob's protégé. Mychael does an adequate job, but fails to truly impress. Regrettably, he suffers from some of the same problems with consistently that his mentor is often lambasted for. In particular, his variation in depicting Ash K. is quite bothersome. He does well with the horror and alien aspects of the story, and that is probably why he was chosen for the project, but it's not enough.
I was prepared to give this book a slightly higher rating; I really do like the ideas of alternate "chosen ones" and introducing some new characters to balance Ash out. However, as much as the book's failures ride on the execution of the creators this venture was in need of a proper editorial scrub down.
Possibly too many to mention, but I will detail some inexcusable oversights that somehow made it to the printer:
- On page one, in a scene mirroring the opening scene the Army of Darkness movie, Ash K. seems to retrospectively relate her story then without warning the captions switch the present. Mind you, throughout the whole sequence Nameless interjects with his own thoughts, making the whole thing even more confusing.
- Ash K. implies she's a sorceress, and asks to be brought to the queen... so the slave drivers bring her directly to Cleopatra. WTF?
- Deadbug, before he's fully revealed, hands Cleopatra a box through a door. His hand is human-like, and not green, lanky and with claws as it is for the rest of the comic
- Here's the cake topper: Most of the other things are probably more on the creators than editorial, but using a single quote/apostrophe (') instead of the double quote (") is simply unacceptable. Throughout the comic, when things are "quoted" the single version is repeatedly used. From my understanding that is standard in Europe, but with Dynamite being US-based I can't see how that one got by the higher-ups. Since I'm already in nitpick mode you also need to quote text in captions when it's being spoken aloud.
I might give this book another chance despite all the flaws. As I said, the concepts are there and Serrano seems to be fan, but this comic has way too many confusing and un-fleshed out elements to truly demand anyone other than a hardcore Army of Darkness fan give it a try.
Jamil Scalese is just like you -- an avid comics reader and lover of sequential art. Residing in Pittsburgh, PA, he is an unapologetic Deadpool fan, devotee of the Food Network and proud member of Steelers Nation. Check out his original, ongoing webcomic And Then There Were Zombies and follow his subpar tweeting at @jamilscalese.