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Things move quickly in Ash and the Army of Darkness—just like in the movies. When we left off, Ash had quickly dispatched of the demon in S-Mart, but things were far from normal. When he stepped outside, he found that, in fact, he had never really traveled back to his own time, that evil armies of skeletons were still out to get him. He was taken prisoner and we were left with the notion that the doors we thought had closed at the conclusion of Army of Darkness we actually left wide open. [Spoilers to Follow]
This book is delightfully campy. Ash, a prisoner to evil, is being tortured both physically and emotionally. Despite these horrors that are being inflicted on him, he’s as clever and sassy as ever. One of the most amusing aspects of the film is Ash’s status as the “chosen one,” he who was sent to fight off the ever-pervasive evil; this man who says ridiculous things, who, at times, isn’t all that bright, who is very much a product of his own time, is he who is tasked with saving the world. Ash and the Army of Darkness, issue #2 in particular, does a fantastic job at highlighting this fantastic reality.
The most notable difference between Army of Darkness the movie and this excellently penned sequel is the tone. This comic is much darker, both in tone and visually. Sam Raimi’s filmmaking is very distinct. His sets are built, as are the armies of skeletons. His demons are the product of some incredible make-up artistry. The comic, obviously illustrated, is much more graphic. The violence, therefore, feels much more real. This compromises some of the more campy elements that made the film so good. Ash and the Army of Darkness is in the process of finding its own identity as a book. It isn’t failing by any means, but it’s certainly still trying to figure itself out.
Steve Niles is once again spot on. The balance between Ash’s shackled scene and Sheila’s quest to rescue him is very well handled. It’s well paced and eventful. And speaking of the pacing, Evil Dead tends to move very quickly. Issue #1 ends with Ash’s capture; Issue #2 ends with his rescue. I’m sufficiently convinced that Issue #3 will advance the story in every necessary way. Niles also seems to know just what the audience wants, and he wastes no time in delivering. This issue concludes with the reunion that not a single person would want delayed: Ash gets his chainsaw and boomstick back.
Dennis Calero has a very interesting style. His oddly organized panels, dark colors, and frequent close-ups would be difficult to follow in the hands of most other comic book artists. He, however, handles it quite well. Giant battles can be difficult to render in a limited number of pages, and the solution to this problem always seems to be to make it chaotic. That’s exactly what Calero does. Balancing action with story is certainly a challenge. In Ash and the Army of Darkness, Calero succeeds.
I can’t stress enough how much I love this comic. I said it before and I’ll say it again: this is the sequel that Evil Dead fanatics have been waiting a long time for. Ash Williams is back in a big way. Now that he’s got his handy red chainsaw and his boomstick back, I don’t think any number of flimsy skeletons can bring him down.