I’ve been hot and cold on Dynamite’s Army of Darkness series over the years. My main problem is not how they’ve handled the license, but the fact that the license they have is for Army of Darkness as opposed to Evil Dead. The third installment of Raimi’s movie trilogy was by far the silliest of the three, almost foregoing horror entirely in order to try and garner a bigger mainstream audience. For most horror fans, the first Evil Dead is a masterpiece, and the second is beloved because of how ridiculously gory it got.
But when I heard that horror vet Steve Niles was taking a crack at the new Ash and the Army of Darkness series, I was optimistic. I figured he would find a way to bring back some of the horror, even within the confines of the AoD license. My optimism was well-placed, as Niles not only provided a darker version of the AoD universe, but he is actually using what’s there to tell a deeper story.
We start issue one in a very familiar place, with Ash telling his co-workers at S-Mart about his exploits, only to be interrupted by a Deadite attack. After a few pages of what we’re used to however, the story takes a hard left. It seems that Ash’s tendency to misquote the rites of the Necronomicon have landed him (and S-Mart) back in the medieval world, and things have gotten substantially worse since he left.
I won’t spoil what the twist is, but I loved the fact that Niles is bringing in the rest of the AoD cast, and there is already more meat to this story than the usual Ash killing Deadites rinse and repeat nature of previous series.
In terms of the artwork, I am a fan of Dennis Calero, but I feel like some of the action is stiff in this issue. There are moments and set pieces that Calero captures beautifully, particularly the exterior shot of S-Mart when Ash sees where he really is. But, the fight scenes feel more like a series of poses than fluid combat. There was a lot of setup to push through in this issue though, so he may have more room to open up the action as the series progresses.
Overall, I’m really happy with the first issue of Ash and the Army of Darkness, and I think this could be the best AoD series yet.
4 out of 5 Fake Shemps