Graphic Novel Review: Ash and the Army of Darkness

My name is Ash and I'm an idiot. I had a life once. I had a job and a girl. Hell, I even had a reasonably functional right hand. Then I went to the cabin where an even bigger idiot read from the book of the dead and unleashed an ancient evil.

And so begins Ash and the Army of Darkness, which picks up on the final scene of the movie, as Ash regales his fellow S-Mart coworkers with tales of heroism, only to fend off one last Deadite in housewares.

Or so we always assumed.

Instead, Steve Niles, Dennis Calero and Nacho Tenorio follow that scene through to its logically horrible conclusion, with Ash and his coworkers stepping outside to find that their beloved S-Mart has been dragged back to a medieval battlefield, confirming that he definitely didn't say the right words. Duke Henry's men are dead, Deadites are everywhere, and the Wiseman to whom he entrusted the Necronomicon is, you guessed it, now the man who most wants to swallow Ash's soul.

This is a series written by a group of guys who clearly love the whole Evil Dead mythology. It's not just a direct sequel to Army of Darkness, it's a continuation of the entire story line. For proof of that you need look no further than early appearance of Linda's tortured ghost, who reminds us that Ash's romantic loyalties are still very much in conflict, even before the inevitable return of Sheila (who, it must be said, does kick some serious Deadite butt).

True to form for the series, the Necronomicon has once again gone missing, and as the man who botched the incantation, it falls to Ash to find it and put an end to the evil. There are some nice twists this time around, with some time travel implications, unexpected childhood flashbacks (which do add an interesting new layer to Ash's story), and the appearance of Sulevia, a prophetic lady of the lake figure who inhabits an enchanted grove. You'll have to wait until the third issue to get the chainsaw and boomstick back, and even longer for the return of evil Ash, but there is a groovy twist later on when his hand gets upgraded to fit a sword.

The artwork here varies, with Ash looking like a dead ringer for Bruce Campbell in some panels, and a generic figure in others, but it's generally strong. The Deadites look great, and the action has that classic cheesy cinematic feel that Raimi did so well. The voice-over narration comes and goes, but is particularly good in issues 1 and 4, and almost perfect towards the end of 5. There's a new bit with incantations here, this time words that he's not supposed to say out loud, and while I was afraid it might be too much, it's comical and classic.

Overall, this was a ton of fun, and a perfect follow-up to the movie. It adds enough to the story to be worth reading, but doesn't take it so far as to risk alienating fans. Collecting the first 8 issues, Ash and the Army of Darkness does end on an unusually happy note, but we all know that can't last.

Paperback, 192 pages
Expected publication: September 23rd 2014 by Dynamite Entertainment