(Dynamite Entertainment, 2013)
Review by Cory Thrall
Written by Steve Niles
Artwork by Dennis Calero
Letters by Marshall Dillon
I’m normally not one to get into movie/television/video game based comics. They almost always feel like they have no real connection to the source material other than by name and characters alone. There have been the exceptions to this rule and I of course can’t speak for a number of the other titles published. As I said I’m normally not one to get into these. My experiences have made it so I hardly even notice when a new one is announced.
Now, even though I knew there’s been a good number of adventures within the Army of Darkness ‘universe’, and that none of these have ever looked interesting enough to do more than flip through. But when I saw Steve Niles (“30 Days of Night”, “Criminal Macabre”) was writing this new series, I stopped and took another look at the ad. I have loved Ash and the Evil Dead films since I was a teen, so even with my feelings on such comics I had been curious enough to poke a nose into an issue here and there at the shop. This was the first time I had ever done more than flip, roll my eyes, and sigh.
The recent mini series “Breath of Bones”, written by Niles and featuring amazingly beautiful artwork by Dave Wachter (IDW’s “Night of 1,000 Wolves”), was such a wonderful experience. That book had me immersed in the tragic struggle and doom and gloom of the surroundings. It was more than just the art that achieved this, of course - it always is. So I came away from that mini excited about what a writer as talented as Niles could possibly do next, as his resume was already full of so many incredible comics. When I saw the ad for “Ash & the Army of Darkness”, I actually got interested.
Wrapping this back around, I finally decided to get the first issue. I figured it had an awesome Ben Templesmith cover either way you slice it, so there’s at least a win there. Since this is a review of #2, I’ll be quick: I hated it. I really don’t like to say such extreme things about someones work, but I really did. It made me a bit angry and feel like a fool. First off, the script was made up of almost nothing but dialogue from the film, which is to be expected to a certain extent. In issue #1 it goes way overboard, however, with exact quotes from the film scripted throughout the entire issue. It became very distracting fast. Second, the artwork steals majorly from shots from the film. Again, this is to be expected to a certain degree, but it was overused, as well, and most of the shots were ones that have become classic frames from the film. Some I’ve seen as posters. This may sound like nit-picking, but it really was a confusing, nearly pointless mess. So, there it is. I was not happy with Issue #1 at all.
Issue #2 of “Ash & the Army of Darkness” releases this Wednesday, December 4th, and I was lucky enough to receive a preview of the issue. Even with my feelings on the opening issue, I was willing to give the book another chance, as first issues can be shaky. Now that I’ve read it, I will say this: it is a much better issue than #1. Niles’ script here is much more planted in the title rather than relying on film quotes, and that’s why I love the beginning of this 2nd issue. It felt like the ‘universe’ it was supposed to exist in and it did it naturally, not forced down your throat with imagery and lines fans have heard and seen used a million times. The issue starts out with a good pace and re-introduces a major character from the film into the story with a bit of a twist. It was great, and it made me happy that they seemed to be pulling it together. The schemes and plans hinted at in the first issue is more fleshed out here, with groundwork being set for the plot to walk on further down the line. Problem was, as my reading went on it seemed to slowly morph into what I was seeing with the first issue. Then it finally went nuts. By the end of the comic I felt like they had taken some very interesting ideas, some pages of Ash being tortured, and a drop or two of LSD and hit ‘Mix’. This book seriously loses hold on reality. It feels like a film still in the early editing stages - half scenes, random shots, maybe the occasional cut here and there waiting for re-shoots. It’s just a mess.
I am confused by Dennis Calero’s (“Masks”, “X-Factor”) artwork in this comic. At times it looks great, and at others it seems like quickly done spray-painted stencil work. It can go from darkly shaded and realistic to an awkward ‘blocky’ look and back again. Some of the panels are very well thought out, while others are mysteries. There is nearly an entire page near the end where I would be hard tasked to explain what was going on. It’s a mix of styles that doesn’t sit well with me, and doesn’t fit the majority of this title. Calero is good at some things, bad at rendering others - but, much like the artistic styles he uses this switches back and forth. It’s as messy and confounding as the writing.
I respect the work of Steve Niles so much it really bothers me to have to give such a review for one of his projects. That said, this comic has been a real let down, and I honestly do not think I’ll be even flipping through #3. Dynamite has been releasing some amazing books of late, but this one is definitely a ‘miss’. As not only a comic fan but as an Evil Dead obsessive as well, I cannot recommend this book. And I really, really wish I could.
Follow Cory Thrall on Twitter: FeralFang27