Sunday, April 27, 2014

CBR:Quickies Army of Darkness (Series 3)

Ashley J. Williams is back, baby!

For this third run of the series, alternate dimensions, Obama, Herbert West, Danger Girl and plenty of Deadite mischief!

After James Kuhoric's main Army of Darkness on-going (which I call the "AoD series 2"), Dynamite Entertainment decided to relaunch the series. Start fresh from a new issue #1 (it's a comic book thing..). Try to capitalize on new fans using this as a newcomer-friendly starting point.

This All-New Army of Darkness was put into the hands of writer Elliot Serrano, who decided to follow on several previous threads, include some of his own new ideas and finally go for a more comic book-ysh "alternate dimensions" storyline.

Following on the previous series which saw Ash going to South American to stop "Monzezuma's Revenge" (yikes!) and looking for other Chosen Ones when he formed a "League of Light".

This 3rd and new series focused now on Ash traveling the world a lot more, as he finally embraced his role as a "Chosen one". Ridding the world of evil, one Deadite at the time.

Released around this short-lived new series were released a couple more crossovers which I decided to both include here and review first. Darkman, Xena, Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, Marvel Zombies. It really seemed they tried mixing AoD with any kind of possible horror story out there. That's probably how they finally come up with the following very random crossovers. You thought you had seen it all? Wait until you get a load of this...

Comic title: Army of Darkness Ash Saves Obama 
Written by Elliott Serrano
Art by Ariel Padilla
Format: Trade paperback collecting Army of Darkness: Ash Saves Obama #1-4.

You read that right. Ash Saves Obama!

The story opens as we get a look when the Necronomicon Ex Mortis was being originally written... or was it? Where those comic book panels...? This looks like something else altogether....

Ash "from housewares" was sent by S-Mart to help at a local Convention the store is sponsoring. A special appearance by the President of the United States of America - Barack Obama - was scheduled after a visit at a local factory. (but he actually gets to pick up a book somebody saved for him, quickly, almost off-panel)

There's plenty of "Obama-chan" merchandising being sold there. Call it capitalism at its best.

We get a glimpses at a few other cult favorite franchise (such as a Terminator Dynamite was publishing at the time).

Ash finds a kid reading a very strange book.. It turns out a copy of the Nerconomicon founds its way at the Comic-Con. It's actually a comic book copy of the Book of the Dead! Several more are being spread across the "Comic-Con!

It's a new scheme by the Necronomicon, which found a new way to start spreading its Kandarian curse around!

Ash is then transported to an Hollywood Boulevard, before ending his journey in Washington, D.C.!

Will Ash be able to destroy all these damned evil books!?

But there's one last copy that escaped our hero... And the president as it! Now it's attracting every single Deadite to the White House!

But Obama simply throws it in the fire. The. End.

So actually, I suppose this was more like "Obama Saves Ash" in the end...

Overall: Ashley J. Williams thought had seen it all? Wait until our hero gets a look at a comic book convention! Welcome to the Necrocomicon!

...This could have easily become a "My Name is Bruce" type of scenario. But it didn't. Instead it was a much simpler classic "Ash gets transported from one place to another to fight Deadites"-scenario.

Ash Saves Obama was originally released in 2010 to bring back the series from a certain dull it was suffering the last few couple of years. Both to surprise long time fans and shake things up. And mostly they were hoping to get some easy media coverage that way, no doubt.

It was written by Elliott Serrano, the Army of Darkness/Xena crossovers writer as well.

Like he said plenty of times in past interviews, Elliott Serrano simply wanted to join in the fun on the many Obama comic books released at the time but also play with the whole crossovers trend that seem to plague comics... but I think he kinda failed on actually making a witty comment about it, he just really ended making another one of these without having a thing to say for it... There's a few couple funny dialogues at the beginning but nothing more.

It starts slow, and there's barely any "Obama action" actually. Which is kind of a shame. I guess they were trying to appeal to people that didn't want to see much Obama in their AoD comics as well. Which is all kinds of stupid since I'm sure those same people wouldn't even be checking this comic either way...

It's well drawn. Funny. Nothing more.

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Danger Girl and the Army of Darkness 
Written by Andy Hartnell
Art by Chris Bolson
Format: Trade paperback collecting Danger Girl and the Army of Darkness #1-6.

Following on the Obama crossover, we have another crossover from 2011 this time! This one was a 6-part crossover titled Danger Girl and the Army of Darkness, like the title indicates this saw a crossover between Ash and J. Scott Campbell's Danger Girl series, originally started at WildStorm and at IDW Publishing at the time.

Our story opens with this girl, Abbey Chase, caught in the middle of an adventure film-like stand-off. We get some chases. We are introduced to this secret organization called the "Danger Girls". A team of gun-ablazin' badass spies. Its members. Who is Abbey (answer, a kickass action girl and a great spy).

Some bad guys have been dealing with black magic lately, trying to use it to make them invicible. Abbey recovers a page from the "Book of the Dead". They will have to use it to track down the actual book. She sees a picture of Ash materialize on it...

...Speaking of, Ash thought he had finally been able to settle for some quieter non-adventurous life with a girl named Mandy. But he keeps having visions of Deadites these last couple of days... Haunting him.. Taunting him... He's had one too many time-traveling around the time stream and has some trouble adjusting... With the book getting inside his head... He can't thing straight or close his eyes for one second... Ash gets arrested when he's having some hallucinations of hordes of Deadties in the street.

They get to Ash and break him out for his expertise in this very particular field and for his apparent connection with the book.

Meanwhile we meet the Hammer Empire and how they've been trying to harvest the power of the Necronomicon to weaponize Deadites.

Our hero with a chin will have to team up with the team of super-spies known as the "Danger Girls"- Ash has some remarquably great chemistry with Abbey.

The evil book is about to take over Abbey but she is finally able to blow it up and stop the Deadite infestation...

This series received some lovely covers by DG creator J. Scott Campbell who did some truly outstanding work that perfectly set the tone of this very fun crossover. As well as a return of fan-favorite Nick Bradshaw who hadn't been on the Army of Darkness title in aaaaaages. A welcome return home.

Overall: Let it be said that "Danger Girl and the Army of Darkness" was surprisingly pretty good. Which surprised me since I'm not a fan and am barely familiar with what the Danger Girls are. 

This limited series was a Dynamite/IDW co-publication. It featured some lovely art by Chris Bolson. Really good A-grade level quality stuff. Dynamic. Fun. Expressive. And action packed!

It actually ended up both working and being a pretty fun series!

The story realls takes the time introducing every single main character from both series, which was nice. There were plenty of funny one liners.

It was well drawn and very well written.

A surprising crossover you wouldn't expect, an epic AoD series at its best.

All in all, highly recommended actually!

I give this one a: 2.5 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Army of Darkness/Reanimator (2013)   
Written by Mark Rahner 
Art by Randy Valiente
Format: ARMY OF DARKNESS/RE-ANIMATOR (2013) One-Shot Special issue.

What's that, you say? We already had an Army of Darkness vs. Re-Animator crossover? That's right. In fact the old James Kuhoric/Nick Bradshaw mini-series was the first Army of Darkness comics Dynamite did following the reprint of the old AoD Movie Adpatation. But this is a new one. Slightly unrelated. Or is it...?

It starts with a vortex opening in the sky. Ash comes crashing through and lands... somewhere.

Ash's been dealing with Deadites a lot recently, both across time and space (see the end of the previous series or the above previous two crossovers). Dealing with Deadfites from across the world.

In a cemetery at night, Ash meets Herbert West. A doctor that has been working on reanimating dead bodies.

Since he's trapped here for the time being, Ash starts helping him around. On a suspicious note, Ash gives him a false name, as Elvis (a nod to Bubba Ho-Tep?).West gives him back a new right hand (...from a reanimated DEAD body!?). Ash helps Herb'. We get to see his tale in the form of flashback scenes.

You see this is a crossover with the original H.P. Lovecraft’s Re-Animator, not the 1985 film adaptation. Mostly recounting the events of the original 1922 short story.

Ash starts losing control of his fresh new hand. He's forced to cut it down when he finally loses control over it...

Finally Ash remembers this "Reanimator", where he's seen this guy previously, as a horde of ReAnimated Deadit-ysh corpses comes crashing through the lab. He knew he looked familiar, he met hims previously in an Asylum!

West had come into contact with the book and tried to use it. Which sent him back from the present to the past where he was trapped and forced to continue his experiments from! The Deadites only want West and Ash is able to escape.

Years pass. And there's now a copy of the Nerconomicon that landed back at the Miskatonic Library, because time travel! (which would be seen again much later on, at the end of following series)

This special "48 pages!" one-shot also reprints material from Re-Animator #0 from 2005, used to promote and sell that previous Army of Darkness vs. Re-Animator crossover trade paperback.

Overall: The original mini was pretty good, so why just a mere simple one shot this time? I have no idea...

The real new feature is that this time Ash gets to face what appears to be the Herbert West from the original short story rather than the 1985 incarnation. At least, at first. A lot of cues are taken directly from H.P. Lovecraft’s "Herbert West-Reanimator". How he starts reanimating Miskatonic's Dean and having to deal with his detached body. Ash taking here the role of the original story narrator.

The art was ok. Dark. Moody. Very reminiscent of old horror comics.


What I liked was how this was not just a simple Ash vs. Herbert West comic. Both universes work great together and form a great mix. Although Ash was almost turned into a secondary character here. 

This Army of Darkness/Re-Animator One-Shot mixes two classic horror characters. Only this time it's not the Re-Animator from the movie of the same name but from the original  H.P. Lovecraft’s Re-Animator tale.

At first this second crossover really seems to ignore the first one, in the first couple of pages.. but the story turns out to be different.

The second half of the issue reprint the story from the one-shot issue "Reanimator #0" from 2005. While this one was written by James Kuhoric and drawn Nick Bradshaw and seems much better (acting as a prequel of sort to the original Army of Darkness vs. Re-Animator crossover) the new story was actually pretty decent.

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Army of Darkness (2013) vol. 1: Hail To The Queen, Baby! 
Written by Elliot Serrano
Art by Dietrich Smith & Marat Mychaels
Format: Trade paperback collecting Army of Darkness (vol. 3) #1-7.

This Volume 1 of this 2013 Army of Darkness strangely opens without a recap as his usual in both the Evil Dead/Army of Darkness series of films and comics here at Dynamite. Which was made all the more strange by the fact this was labeled as a "volume 1". You would expect it to be new reader-friendly but here it picks up with such a different status quo from where we left off Ash in the movie...

Ash is now living with the Wise Man stuck in the present, who now has ditched his old wizard-y look and beard for a more contemporary look and is trying to get Ash to call him by his name Merle. They are now in possession of the Necronomicon and have it trapped and under control. Merle sends Ash through the world after reported appearances of Deadites (which can sort of explain the previous above crossovers).

Our story begins with this woman. Ashley K. Williams. That's right, a fem!Ash from an alternate reality it seems.

She's a "Smart-Stop" store clerk. One night spending some time off with her boyfriend she witnessed a strange aircraft crashing down within the woods. That thing infected the dude who she had to put down quickly. And then the mysterious alien artifact bonded to her left arm. She would go through several adventures battling the forces of evil.

Meanwhile in outer space a strange bug-eyed alien (very reminiscent of Bruce Campbell's film Alien Apocalypse if you ask me) got into contact with something similar and was banished from his world. This alien dude has an unpronounceable name in our human language. She met him a while back. Now both displaced in time they are for the time being partners. They landed in Ancient Egypt where a strange portal sent Ashley across time and space and the bug-guy was left behind.

Ashley has but only one goal: she must find this "Ashley J. Williams" from an alternate-dimensions. Only this opposite of her might know how to put a stop to her curse..

Ashley might not be particularly smart but she is witty and a badass that was able to harness the very same evil power that has been plaguing her. And she was able to control those very same dark forces. She can morph her possessed hand into anything she wants (a chainsaw, a gun, you name it!). She will need all the luck she can get to locate her male counterpart to help them both escape their destiny...

At the same time, we get a new look at this mysterious hooded figure we already got a glimpse a couple times before (previously in the Xena crossovers). She appears to be guarding some doors in a tomb...

We're back with the main "real" Ash. Now driving on Route 66, cleaning it from a Deadite motorcycle gang. Ashley is closing in on his tracks, but always too late it seems.tracks

Back in Brazil, a mysterious dying grandpa it returned to his true monstrous form... Colonel Zoch! An evil scientist that was running some experiments for the Nazis with the Book of the Dead back in WWII.

Merle and Ash ask the Book where to go next. The place? A jungle in Brazil! Ashley (K. Williams, the fem!Ash) finally meets Ash(ley J. Williams, our classic Ash). But it's getting too late, Zoch starts rising a Demon Army of Darkness! They get separated, Ash lands in some movie set in Japan, 1979. There he meets a couple of secret agents Yuriko and Sato trying to put a stop to the dark forces. They help our hero Ash in his pajamas escape from the authorities.

Ashley herself finds herself trapped in a mysterious cabin at the edge of our dimension. In this abandoned place she meets Ted, a red-skinned half-possessed dwarf and partner to one other alternate Ash. A mysterious post-apocalyptic-looking Ash armed with a magical demon hand. Their backstory is heavily inspired by the videogame Evil Dead: Regeneration (Ash got locked up in an asylum following the events of the second film, had to escape a new Deadite invasion, met this lil' guy they were running experiments on, yadda yadda...). Some demons come every now and then, challenging the Chosen One to get the right to roam the outside world. This Ash appears to act as a gatekeeper between dimensions of sorts.

Cliffhanger ending! Our gal Ashley turns against this Ash!! Woah! I didn't see that coming!

The best part of this entire "reboot" are probably the stunning humorous covers drawn by Tim Seeley who at the time was working with Dynamite on a collaboration for a possible continuation of sorts of his cult classic series Hack/Slash!

Overall: This is the first of the two trades collecting the third series of Army of Darkness. This short-lived on-going only lasted for 13 issues.

It comes after a certain hiatus, which only saw the release of the above comics (making them part of this 3rd volume generally speaking).

This time our new writer Elliot Serrano wanted to take AoD into a new direction. A bit more distant from the movies but very much anchored in what you would expect from these sort of comics books. Introducing more mysteries, more new characters and having this time a cleared idea of the bigger picture story to play with.

You would expect this, what with a new main character in the form of this alternate Ash-woman, to feel like a perfect fresh new start, right? But no. It was probably more confusing than ever. Which is a shame. It's built upon all the previous continuity, now more than ever.

The parody opening of the AoD introduction scene was probably the highest point.

While this new series does feel quite original, it just seems overly rushed and uneven. The best we get on the art-side are the bits by Dietrich Smith acting as a filler artist. The rest just looks overly lazy and rushed really. It's... just bad.

There were a bunch of typos, more than ever. That's usually the role of  the editor, did they check any of this? While the half-Deadite dwarf partner was no doubt inspired by Evil Dead Regeneration, they couldn't keep their details straight and consistent. There are some errors regarding the little guy's name. It was "Sam" in the game (after Sam Raimi) and was supposed to be "Ted" here (for Ted Raimi), but he was alternatively called Sam in a couple of pages by accident... If you can't keep it right, why change the name at all? It didn't really annoy me much since I'm more familiar with the game personally, but it kinda distracted from the story... Just... pick one name or another, but not both!!

There were a lot of references to the entire Dynamite AoD series up to this point. including finally some allusions to the Evil Dead video games including Ash using some new weapons such as the arm-mounted gattling gun from one of the games.

I give this one a: 1.5 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Army of Darkness (2013) vol. 2: The King is Dead, Long Live the Queen!
Written by Elliot Serrano
Art by Edu Menna, Jose Malaga & Randy Valiente
Format: Trade paperback collecting Army of Darkness (vol. 3) #8-13.

Our story first opens back in the childhood of one Ashley J. Williams. We get to see how he met Linda and his pal Ted (dropping hints that he might, somehow, become his ally the red-skinned half-Deadite dwarf Ted... only we would never trully followed up on that subplot since the series was canceled at issue 13).

A vortex came a-crashin' and Ted from the cabin at the end of time and our good ol' regular Ash popped out of thin air as well. Ted grabbed onto him and they left young!Ash as soon as they arrived (just for him to get to finally first kiss Linda!).

Ash and Ted were sent crashing through time and landed back in the days of a Prohibition Era Chicago. It's 1929. The old days of Elliot Ness and Al Capone! Ash finds out his old grandfather was just killed by the mob. The Mafia had the the Nerconomicon at the time. Ash has to take the role of his old man James Williams as a "G-Man" to get it back.

Ash faces a pig-faced Deadite-infected boy. A page from the book pointing him out to the mob. Turns out his ol' ugly mug is still there (from the Danger Girl cros?). Ash is able to open door back to the present, but not before charging Eliott Ness with an important sealed letter - more on that later!

King Montezuma (from a short filler issue from the previous series) is resurrected in a dig outside the Mexican border. We meet this pair of Pulp Fiction-inspired thugs (Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson's characters). Yes. It's clearly them, making pop culture references and all. They get turned into Deadites right-hand-men.

Back in the present day, Yuriko from the previous story got the letter sent by Ash through time. She went to see the Wise Man, Merle.

A Deadite infestation has been spreading a new breed of Deadites. Stronger, faster and more importantly unkillable by any conventional means.

Merle gets the portal door open just in time to grab Ash from it. But they lose Ted for the mysterious insect-dude! They send Ash after some more strange Deadites occurrences while looking for a solution to all of this (including Deadite-possessed toys!).

Finally the mysterious green-hooded figure is revealed after all these last issues of suspense.. She turns out to be another incarnation of the Lady Ash!

Montezuma and Zoch team up to take over the world! An Army of Darkness composed of Monzezuma's forces, 1920s Deadite gangsters, undead Nazi soldiers and a resurrected Yakuza crime lord are marching towards America!

Yuriko, Ash and insect fight against some Deadite goons sent after them. Merle is sent back in time and Yuriko is killed.

Ash lands when he first arrived in Brazil. Our unlikely team of Ash, Lady Ash and the bug-dude end all trapped in the ominous cavern outside time while the Army of Darkness invasion is marching on.

Our heroes face an army of Deadite-corrupted Ashes. Ash finds the demon-arm and use it to kill the creatures. The insect reveals himself to really be another "Ash", his real name was "Remains after a firestorm" all along. They get the evil future!Lady Ash, breaking the time loop!

Ash uses the demon-hand to get back to the real world and defeat all the Deadite army.

But wait! All that really missing is... another lost copy of the book! There's one last final copy of the book we forgot about.... In a little the shelf of the Miskatonic Library. Remember, from the above-reviewed Army of Darkness/Reanimator one shot?... Huh-uh.... I wonder if that will ever come up again outside this cliffhanger??

Overall: "The King Is Dead, Long Live The Queen!"

And this was it! All there is of this 3rd series!

At times it felt really ambitious in proportions, for such a simple comic adaptation.

The whole story felt like the culmination of the entire AoD franchise at Dynamite, one of the longest licensed comic adaptations out there. It has been published since the foundation of the publisher back in 2005!!!

While the story, confusing at times, could have really been made cleared spread over some more additional issues, it was the art that really ruined this run...

The artwork was really, really weak. Amateurish at best... So many different pencillers in such sort time?! Ash looked nothing like Bruce Campbell at times...

For some reason the book continued to have some many typos.. I mean, what were the editors doingü? They even forget to insert some pictures in computer screens, etc.

While a pretty short run, at least it ended on the appropriate #13 issue. My main complaint is that the entire ending feels really lacking and rushed to have the storyline close on that single issue. We get a story climax, an epic confrontation, a resolution and an epilogue compressed thin in those last few pages...

I liked the ideas, but they weren't that well executed...

Oh, well...

But already a new incoming series is planned in sight to take over....

I give this one a: 1 / 3 Score!

And that was the short-lived second proper AoD on-going, the third Army of Darkness series!

It felt a bit lacking, rushed and convulsed. Some strange decisions (AoD and Danger Girl? Obama? another shorter Re-Animator crossover?) turned out well enough while some interesting plotlines (a culmination of the entire AoD title, alternate realities, alternate Ashes) didn't prove much better...

It was a really mixed bag that would normally end a comic under usual circumstances. And it kinda did.

But already Dynamite announced the launch of a new on-going series Ash and the Army of Darkness. Which would start over picking up after the movies and ignoring these entire previous comics. A reboot of sorts. Darker and more consistent art-wise.

But first one of my most expected crossovers served to kick-start both AoD and another fan-favorite of mine... An Army of Darkness crossover with Hack/Slash!

That's all for this time's Quickies!

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