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Grab Your Chainsaw

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You wake up in the year 1300 AD. Your hand is missing and in its place is a chainsaw. Oh, and there’s also an army of living skeletons coming for you...

If your first reaction is “Groovy!” then this is the graphic novel for you. Army of Darkness is the third installment of the cult classic Evil Dead trilogy. Dynamite Entertainment recently picked up the rights to the movie adaptation graphic novel, and all is right with the world. The graphic novel, illustrated by John Bolton, was adapted from the original script written by Sam and Ivan Raimi.

Our anti-hero Ash finds himself swept away to medieval times after a spell gone awry. There, he is captured by a king and sentenced to death. It isn’t long before Ash discovers the evil he thought he escaped in his own time is also present in the past. Soon he realizes that the only chance he has to return to his own time is to help the small kingdom defeat the Deadites and retrieve the Necronomicon, the very book that sent him to the past.

Let it be known that this is not a new re-telling of the movie. This is a re-release of the Dark Horse ‘comicisation’ of the Army of Darkness film, originally released in 1993. This will come as a relief to fans who don’t have the patience to track down the very hard to find single issues. The graphic novel also sports an introduction by Kurt Busiek, and ends with Busiek doing an interview with the film’s star, Bruce Campbell. Well worth the price tag.

The writing is pretty much what one would expect from the Raimi brothers. It’s quick and snappy and full of snarky remarks that fans have been quoting for years. One difference from the big screen version is that the graphic novel is narrated by Ash from start to finish. The tone of the story is also a bit lost in translation as well. The Raimi Bros. are well-known for their genre—Bruce Campbell has lovingly dubbed it “splat-stick”—which is hard to carry over to sequential art. Ash just loses a bit of goofiness that makes him such a unique character.

John Bolton’s art is top notch as well. If anything, he uses too many reference photos of Campbell. It would be nice to see him paint Ash from memory a bit more, rather than mimic an image from the movie every time he showed his face. However, one can understand the importance of wanting to make sure the reader recognizes who the character is supposed to look like. Bolton’s art is very reminiscent of Vertigo comics coming out around the same time.

At this point some readers might be scratching there heads and saying, “Well, I’ve already seen the movie a dozen times, why would I want the graphic novel?” For one, there’s a ton of cool stuff in the comic that didn’t make it into the movie. When making a movie, filmmakers are limited to a budget, but when writing a comic, the budget is only limited to how wild your imagination is. While a scripted scene might call for six monsters to attack Ash, the monetary restrictions might only allow them to film one. Not so in the comic. So, it’s interesting to see what kind of stuff happened in the comic but didn’t make it into the movie. The graphic novel also features the original ending to the movie, which did not appear in the theaters or in the theatrical version of the DVD (and which some fans argue is much better).

This graphic novel can easily be recommended to fans of Army of Darkness and the Evil Dead films or even horror addicts in general. The collection still holds up as well as it did when it first came out in ’93. The writing is fun and sharp and the art is original and well done. So, load your boom stick and gas up your chainsaw, because there’s an Army of Darkness heading for your local comic shop.

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