Army of Darkness - Shop Till You Drop Dead (2005)
By: Tristan Jones on May 23, 2006  |  Comments ()  |  Share 
Written by: James Kuhoric
Art: Nick Bradshaw
Publisher: Devil's Due Publishing
Issues: 4
In true comic book style, we're going to do a brief overview of the previous story's review to bring you up to speed. I love Evil Dead, don't mind Evil Dead 2 or Army of Darkness, didn't like Army of Darkness: Ashes 2 Ashes. In the end it came down to repetitive and unoriginal dialogue and what felt like inexperienced writing. Now, if you're a fan and didn't like the first books but have had enough of a look through Shop Till You Drop Dead to want to buy it, you don't need to get the preceding issues. You could pretty much have this one start after the "S-Mart Ending" of Army of Darkness and not really worry about the events of the first arc (they're summarized on the first few pages, as are the events of the film). Still, if you didn't like the first arc, I doubt you're going to like this one either…

Ash returns from Egypt (that's right) to go back to work in the local S-Mart, this time however Sheila (see Army of Darkness) is working there with him, now a denizen of the present. Things start going all Evil Dead in the department store one night and the usual shenanigans ensue. This time though, those shenanigans send Ash into the future, where the world is overrun by Deadites (now called Deaduns), and Ash must destroy the Necronomicon once again (though this time a computer program) in a massive "homage" to Tron.

Previous writer Andy Hartnell passes the torch to James Kuhoric (Battlestar Galactica, Lexx, Stagate SG-1 and First Wave), with Nick Bradshaw staying on as artist (until issue three, but returns for four), but from the first few pages, you can tell that not a lot is different. If the writing bugged you in the first arc, it's likely to do the same here, and for many of the same reasons too. Once again, the dialogue and thought processes of Ash are very much in character, and sometimes straddle the line of being too much so. Familiar lines and quotes by which the character is known by in the films have been appropriated for this story, but the attempt to raise the smart-ass-kick-ass factor of Ash results in most of his dialogue being nothing more than throwaway one liners. There are moments where characters use songs with altered lyrics that just don't work on paper and the Speed Racer reference used in one of those said moments is likely to fall flat (especially when the words used don't match the tune).

There's a huge amount of stuff going on in this volume. Possibly too much. While Bradshaw's art is good, the panels often become cluttered and borderline confusing. I found myself having to re-read pages because I'd miss minor details lost in the overcrowded images, as though the focus of the panel was in the wrong place (though this only happened a couple of times, it's not a problem the whole way through). Things are made that bit more confusing when the artists change for the third issue. Bradshaw is replaced with newcomer Sanford Greene, whose art style, while similar is harder to get used to, as the simple "Disney" look is simplified further into a less suitable 'hip-hop' art style. This happens when things go the way of Tron (literally) and then for the final issue, Bradshaw returns. It's a petty gripe, but being a comic fan from way back, I'd rather sit out that extra month or so and get continuous art, rather than have someone fill in for a single issue in a four part arc. For me it's a bit like when they change voices in cartoon shows for a season; it doesn't really alter the story at all, it just feels kind of weird and takes getting used to.

Once again though, the story reaches an impossibly huge climax, this time in cyberspace and in the future. And once again the writer sees fit to have a major character fighting against the Deadites do something infuriatingly careless (be it for irony or cheap humour or whatever) to have the Deadites continue their rampage in the next issue. Now, Ash leaving the Necronomicon as flippantly as he does in Ashes 2 Ashes could be seen by some as being something the character could do. I didn't buy it (well, I did, but I didn't like it at all). What happens in this arc really is just straight up stupid. I can't imagine anyone giving any argument in its favour.

The Army of Darkness comics have so far been a bit of an endurance test. Both books (Ashes 2 Ashes and this one) poach a little too much dialogue from the films and Ash borders on being dimensionally challenged. The dialogue does flow significantly better in this story, but the story is far more convoluted than anything the films could possibly muster and runs the risk of alienating die-hard Darkness fans. Pop culture junkies have plenty to look out for, as the references run thick and fast throughout. The problem is, everything else does as well, and the story ends up being a little too frenetic. I'd be interested to hear what hardcore fans think of these books so far, because frankly, I'm pretty unimpressed. Still, that idea that Army of Darkness has the potential for so far untapped greatness makes me keep watching this one, and Army of Darkness vs Re-Animator sounds like an interesting read…
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