Wednesday, October 14, 2015

CBR Ash and the Army of Darkness

The King is back, baby! Long live the King!

Before Bruce Campbell return to his titular role in the upcoming horror TV series Ash vs. Evil Dead, Dynamite rebooted the comic book series under a similar title, Ash and the Army of Darkness! A fresh new start for our hero, new readers friendly!

Comic title: Ash and the Army of Darkness: Volume 1
Art by Dennis Calero & Nacho Tenorio
Written by Steve Niles

Published by Dynamite Entertainment
From 2014
Lineup Evil Dead/Army of Darkness series
Format: Trade paperback collecting Ash and the Army of Darkness (2013) issues #1-8.

I dunno for you, but for me Halloween is often synonymous with Evil Dead. And I can't tell you how much I highly awaiting for the upcoming new series follow-up to the best film trilogy there is. (That's right. Mad Max is not a trilogy anymore and there's going to be, like, a trillion Star Wars films soon.)

Believe it or not, Ashley J. Williams has had a long history with comic books.

Following on pretty good comic book adaptations of The Evil Dead and Army of Darkness at Dark Horse Comics, Dynamite Entertainment launched an Army of Darkness ongoing title in 2004 to much success.

These comics were fun, silly and very much true to the B-movie nature of the film series.

Ash and the Army of Darkness is a complete reboot of this comic series. This reboot of the comic was long time coming, it was bound to happen as the series was starting to grew out of hand and completely lose touch with what made it so great in the first place. The series was getting harder and harder to follow thanks to several crossovers and complete change of direction whenever a new creative picked it up.

And you know what happens to comics that lose both focus and sales? You know, constant reboots, worst than what you see in Hollywood.

Ash and the Army of Darkness had a lot going for it. Dynamite wanted to offer a fresh new go at the Evil Dead/Army of Darkness comics with a more serious tone, thanks to the success of the Evil Dead remake, and they had the talent to do so this time. With horror master Steve Miles writing the new series, the creator of 30 Days of Night

Hence the new title! A fresh new start! Picking up right where the movie left us, completely separate from the previous Army of Darkness comic book timeline started with Ashes 2 Ashes

Ash finally defeated the Deadites and saved world! While he didn't get the girl, he did get to go home back to his normal life... or did he?

Remember how Ash messed up the incantation back in Army of Darkness? Did he wound up back in present day working at the S-Mart or in a deserted world ruined by the Deadites? Well, Steve Niles found a way to tie both cuts of the film effectively making both endings canon!

Our story opens with Ash now working at the S-Mart store. He used to be a king, baby! But nobody believes him.. suddenly a customer turns into a Deadite! They're back! You probably know already where this is going, right? Ash defeats the monsters and gets some sugar.

But it turns out the entire store landed back in 1300 A.D.! Why is this happening all over again? Whom did Ash leave the Necronomicon Ex Mortis, the Book of the Dead, with ? Oh, that's right, Arthur's Wiseman! And guess who ended up reading some pages in said book?

The Wiseman is now leading the Deadite forces through ol' England and turning everybody into Kandarian demons. The world will be ruled by Deadites!

With Ash back in the 1300s, there might be hope yet to turn the tides over.

Remember Evil Ash or the tiny Ashes? Well meet their ugly cousin, a giant monstrous Ash!

The Demons are able to kidnap Sheila! And as our hero is finally able to free the Wiseman.. Evil Sheila takes over the Army of Darkness!

Why can't things be just simple...

After several years worth of Army of Darkness comics, Dynamite scraps everything for a return to basics.

And while I'm not really for sudden reboots personally, even I got to admit a change of pace was needed following the Evil Dead franchise's return with new films (and now TV series). While some of the comics have been great fun titles in the beginning and a few odd crossovers worked, there's also been a lot of sub par stories to be honest.

With this reboot the main idea was to completely overhaul the series, picking up where the film initially left and continuing from there on the same note. No random crossovers with Xena or the Marvel Zombies. The plan was also to limit the share number of random crossovers they would get to do this time around and bring some well needed actual horror back to the title.

For Steve Niles this was a dream project of his. He's a big fan of the material, and it shows. Niles seems to actually know his stuff (compared to some of the previous comics).

This new comic series is off to a pretty decent start.

There's kind of two storyarcs contained in these first 8 issues. The first arc sees the Wiseman from the film as the villain while Sheila gets to be the big bad after that.

I was really hoping for Nick Bradshaw or some similar art style, but we can't always get what we want.

The art is where I have the biggest with this new series. Dennis Calero's artwork is.. not particularly bad, but it was a bit too rough for my liking. It made this comic look pretty bland, it's just not my cup of tea, neither suited for the slapstick and horror comedy of the Evil Dead.

But we did get something better starting issue 6, with Nacho Tenorio taking over art duties (and into the following series such as the annual special). Which, while not particularly refined, or defined, brought a slightly more cartoon approach.

It's a great idea for a reboot, taking place immediately after the theatrical ending of the Army of Darkness film... and connecting it to the alternate cut ending.

There's some great character moments, the dialogue are pretty in tone with the films, Ash has a lot of great lines. And we finally get to see Sheila some more.

It's sure to please most fans of each different installment of the Evil Dead series, there's as much time traveling (most of the time is actually spent in the 1300s era) as pure gory madness and even some genuinley creepy overtones.

Overall, Ash and the Army of Darkness is a great comeback to form for the Evil Dead/Army of Darkness comic book series. It's not as good as the original start was back in 2004, but it comes pretty close to it.

I Recommend this new series to any horror fan out there, Evil Dead fans will more than get their share of laughs and gore. It's a fresh new start that rings true to the original "Bruce Campbell vs. the Army of Darkness" title of the third film, where Ash must face a world ruled by Deadites!

I sincerely hope the Ash vs. Evil Dead TV show has some similar idea to follow up on Army of Darkness and tie both endings similarly before going into its own thing.

The series ends with Ash and Sheila about to get married. To be continued! This first volume of Ash and the Army of Darkness would be followed by its direct continuation in Ash Gets Hitched and a one-shot Annual before sending our hero to space! Sadly this new continuity is already getting pretty tricky to follow since not all new titles have kept the Ash and the Army of Darkness moniker...

I give it:
2 / 3 ManThings!

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