Army of Darkness: Ashes 2 Ashes (2005)
By: Tristan Jones on May 14, 2006  |  Comments ()  |  Share 
Written by: Andy Hartnell
Art: Nick Bradshaw
Publisher: Devil's Due Publishing
Issues: 4
I'm a huge fan of the original Evil Dead. It's probably almost a prerequisite for being a fan of horror in any way shape or form. Evil Dead 2 and its sequel Army of Darkness are an entirely different kettle of fish in my opinion. Evil Dead 2 essentially being a remake of the first with a liberal dose of slapstick and comedy administered directly to the brain and Army of Darkness being a horror comedy in the same vein as Ghostbusters, feel like films set apart from the original. You could quite easily watch Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness without even having seen the original. In fact, I'm sure if you did, you'd feel as though you were watching a film similar to the two you'd already seen, but set in a much darker, alternate reality of sorts. It's kind of like in comic books where you have the separate universes, such as mainstream Punisher and MAX Punisher, depending on your tastes. Both films have vast hordes of fans, and have probably garnered more of a cult following than their progenitor (the massive amounts of merchandise available for Army of Darkness being a testament to this), but to be honest, I never quite understood what all the fuss was about. Sure I dug the films a lot, but they weren't that good. Anyway, now that my position on Raimi's now classic trilogy is clear, on with the review.

Army of Darkness: Ashes 2 Ashes is set, as the title would suggest, in the Army of Darkness/Evil Dead 2 universe, where the horror elements are countered by comedy and things are a little more fantastic than they ordinarily would be. Set immediately after Army of Darkness (with the U.S. Theatrical/S-Mart ending), Ash finds himself once again in the company of the Wise Man, who has come forward in time to rectify Ash's carelessness in the medieval past. This carelessness means Ash has come back too early and thrown time and space around. Thus, Ash, who's just arrived home, and the Wise Man go on a Back to the Future style mission to ensure that the Ash who hasn't gone to the cabin yet, fulfils his destiny as the Chosen One, and that the events of Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness play out the way they're meant to. After that, they must take the Necronomicon to Egypt and destroy it (apparently Egypt is the only place this can be done). Of course, Hell breaks loose and before you know it, Evil Ash is back and making trouble.

Now, I like many other people, hate time travel. It's an interesting concept, but it is extremely rare that it's presented in any kind of entertainment medium with any credibility. Most of the time it's illogical or too damn confusing, and this comic is borderline both. As a writer, I don't like touching time travel or anything to do with it, but Andy Hartnell (writer and co-creator of Danger Girl) steps up to the challenge. Unfortunately, as a writer, Hartnell doesn't quite cut it here, relying far too heavily on the film's catalogue of quotables to pad out the dialogue, and simply rehashes sequences from the films without contributing much else. The majority of the dialogue, while arguably very Bruce Campbell,, reeks of unoriginality. It reads like a frat boy watched Army of Darkness one night and wrote a script the next day, chuckling to himself and thinking "What would kick ass here?" And while the dialogue of the medieval characters was bad enough in the films, here it's almost unreadable. Ever couple of panels I could hear the "Ba-dum-KSSSH!" of the Terrible One Liner Drum Kit sound off in my skull. The story eventually reaches a confusing pinnacle, and even Ash isn't that careless to do what he does on the last page.

The benefit of writing for comic books though is flawed writing can often be forgiven through the art, which can probably be said for Ashes 2 Ashes. Nick Bradshaw, who basically earned himself a cult following through his personal website, which held a vast and impressive gallery of "Disneyfied" Army of Darkness images. Basically it was a selection of characters and moments from the film drawn as though it were a Disney animated film. As bad as that might sound to some people, it really is very impressive artwork, and while the cartoonish art is far from my favourite style in comics, I really did enjoy what Bradshaw did with this. His characters are perfectly emotive, his women are sexy and his gore is what every gore lover could ever want. My only gripe was that sometimes overfilled pages become too noisy and confusing, especially towards the end, which detracted from the writing (or possibly vice versa).

The Army of Darkness franchise holds so many possibilities for great stories, but this one just feels slightly out of place, and the sudden jumping around of storytelling doesn't help at all. The whole Egypt thing felt really weird for reasons I can't quite put my finger on.

Hardcore fans of the "Sequel Universe" as I'll call it, are likely to get a real bang out this, as it has everything that made Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness what they were. But the checklist style of writing didn't do it for me (I once again refer you to my opening statement). If you're like me in your position on the films and want to check it out, back issues are in plentiful supply at most comic shops (the series came with in excess of four variant covers per issue, running across four issues total) for a couple of bucks and decide for yourselves. True fans can either go back and do the same with all the issues and variants, or grab the hardcover collected volume or trade paperback. From my standing, 2 stars, it shows future potential for greatness, but this is a less than spectacular opening for me. However, if I were to put the Fanboy Hat on you'd be looking at a four star run.
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