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Tales of Army of Darkness #1

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Tales of Army of Darkness #1

Credits

  • Words: James Kuhoric, Robert Kirkman, Andy Hartnell, et al.
  • Art: Nick Bradshaw, Ryan Ottley, Filip Sablik, et al.
  • Inks: N/A
  • Colors: Scott Kester, Bill Crabtree, Imaginary Friends, and J.K. Conlin
  • Story Title: N/A
  • Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
  • Price: $5.95
  • Release Date: Mar 8, 2006

After a mixed, uneven run of two limited series and an inspired yet lackluster crossover, AOD at last finds its true comic book calling – the anthology!

Up to now, the funny book continuations of the hit cult horror films Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2, and Army of Darkness by Spider-Man director Sam Raimi (now, now – some people might not know), have been littered with equal parts ingenuity and – its creative converse – unoriginality. The plots have been clever, playing nimbly across the films’ past continuity and incorporating their full gamut of memorable, major characters. But this playfulness came burdened with the oppressive weight of the films’ aesthetic, the catch-phrases and attitude and overall ambiance that the comic creators have permeated their work with to an unaccommodating degree; the nostalgic draw of these aspects were involving for a short, introductory time only – then the story required more. Sadly, most of what was given over the past year within the comic was just the same, tired comedic edge that made the films so popular, but which now lacked any real passion, drama, or memorable, fresh addition to the AOD mythos. Thankfully, that has changed.

With Tales of Army of Darkness #1, Dynamite Entertainment has at last brought the franchise to a place where its full majesty, its dignity as a work of creative, unforgettable fiction shines through. There are six stories within, drafted by both current makers of the AOD ongoing series as well as newcomers who have never had the honor of scribing Ash’s world, and it’s my proud duty to inform potential readers that every single tale is a gem cut fine enough to be called a crown jewel.

The anthology opens with A Dame, Deadites, and a Dimwit by ongoing AOD series writer James Kuhoric and with art by the same series’ artist, Nick Bradshaw. The story fills in a decent plot hole left dangling between the two AOD limited series, and I’m not certain if it is because the different format (short story vs. full-length multi-parter) or their use of a more potential-laden character, Sheila (the girl from the medieval past), as opposed to Ash (a purposefully two-dimensional protagonist who’s already had three films spotlighting him), but the creative team manages to produce their finest AOD tale to date with a mere nine pages. And a plot hole is plugged, which is always something to cheer about.

Weekend Off is by a writer I yearn to be sick of, but who’s just too talented to hate – Robert Kirkman. Together with artist Ryan Ottley, the proverbial third dimension is at last given to the aforementioned two-dimensional Ash. This is the single best Ash story ever written to date. It’s funny, it’s faithful to the character, and it’s poignant as hell. Perfection on glossy stock.

Next comes You Have No Honor, by Kuhoric and fully painted by Filip Sablik. The art is stunningly lush, and the story is perhaps the funniest of the book. It follows a very minor character from the AOD movie and watches the film’s events through his eyes. There are moments where Kuhoric’s dialogue and Siblik’s pictures don’t seem to be aligned (the dialogue and visuals get a bit jumbled), but this is a rare occurrence and the story still shines.

Fourthly comes Till Death Do Us Part by the writer of the first AOD limited series, Andy Hartnell and artist Nick Acs. It comes close to reaching the same heights of character depth as Kirkman’s take on Ash, but Hartnell employs a greater degree of farce and abandons all pretense of dramatic profundity. The story focuses on Ash and his fatalistic attempt at maintaining a long-term (longer than a single night) relationship. It’s well done, but Hartnell takes a short-cut and the story falls short of affecting.

Penultimately, we turn the page and come upon Necronomicon, by AOD editorial consultant Shawn Spurlock and Grounded artist Paul Azaceta. The winner of the gold for most surreal and bizarre, it’s a story focusing on Ash visiting his parents and the absolutely horrific events that follow (though – for such appalling events – they’re executed in incongruously mordant ways). I was a little thrown by the sheer nonchalant attitude in which Ash’s family is man-handled in this tale, though it is certainly, for this very reason, one I won’t forget.

Lastly, the creative team behind Flak Riot, Robert Place Napton and artist Michael O’Hare, weave the tale Runaway. This is the loosest and wildest of the bunch, playing on Ash’s iconic status and tells an action-packed, riveting short, filled with wild one-liners and head-bursting deadites. While these are indeed what I found to be the ongoing series’ shortcomings (all action and wit and little else), it satisfies sweetly as a purely petite serving, and uses a third-party character to view the events, which allows the story a quality of development that Ash as the narrative lead usually lacks.

Six beautiful, moving, wild, crazy, and rewarding stories, all building upon and filling out – for the first time truly filling out – the mythology of Ash and his world that is besieged by the Army of Darkness. If all I ever read of Ashley and his universe are anthology collections such as this, I will never want for more.

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