Army of Darkness vs Re-Animator (2005)
By: Tristan Jones on June 22, 2006  |  Comments ()  |  Share 
Written by: James Kuhoric
Pencils: Sanford Greene and Nick Bradshaw
Issues: 4
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
After such a promising start in Dynamite Entertainment's Re-Animator comic, Army of Darkness vs Re-Animator is another jumbled mess that falls into exactly the same traps as it's predecessors.

Continuing on from where we left off in Army of Darkness: Shop 'Til You Drop Dead, Ash is institutionalised for life in Arkham Asylum (The Lovecraft one, not the Batman one), blamed for the deaths and destruction of the previous story. Of course, his doctor is the overzealous Herbert West, but thankfully, it's not one of those bizarre coincidences that many of these cross-overs tend to rely on to match up their characters. You see, for those who are unable to get their hands on the Re-Animator one-shot Dynamite put out just before the release of this arc, Herbert West, the one you see here in the pages of Army of Darkness vs The Re-Animator, is not really Herbert West. Explanation time…

Many years earlier, the real Herbert West was replaced by an evil, psychotic doppelganger from The Forbidden Realm, thanks to Professor Whately, who is trying to bring about the return of The Old Ones through the use of the Necronomicon. Whately is using West to help get his hands on The Chosen One (Ash), who, for a reason that's never quite gone into properly, will help shatter the barrier between our dimension and that which imprisons the Lovecraftian deity; Yog-Sothoth. Before Yog-Sothoth can come through, the world of the living must be cleansed of life, which is where the Deadites come into play… partly at least. Evil West wants to use the Deadites in his Re-Animator formula experiments as well.

Alright, a lot of thought has gone into the backstory, but unfortunately it cramps up what could have been split into three (yes, three!) really good main stories. While the idea of Ash going up against Herbert West is one even I find really interesting, the execution simply isn't what anyone would expect. What you have here are two franchises running around crazy-style with very loose reigns. Pretty much all the tricks the Army of Darkness have pulled before are here, wreaking havoc with West's re-animated monsters. That element of the larger story should be enough to appease surface fans wanting a quick fix of either franchise, however purists (especially those who love their Lovecraft) are likely to be disappointed by the fact that with everything going on, only a few surfaces are barely scratched.

I know I've voiced my opinion on the use of the Army of Darkness itself in previous reviews, but this book could have got away with not even including the Deadites. They feel as though they were simply thrown in because they had to be. Then you've got the second layer of the story, the Lovecraftian one. Sure, Re-Animator is Lovecraft already, but Khuhoric seems to have made the link and taken it one step further than necessary (for this story at least). Whately is a great villain, straight up. The problem is that not enough time is spent building this great character. Basically we are told/shown that he's evil and wants give our world to The Old Ones. Whately could have had a whole arc with him as the sole antagonist. It'd be awesome, Ash going up against The Old Ones, and even though that's sort of what's going on here, it's hampered by the Re-Animator story. Then, on top of all this, Army of Darkness vs Re-Animator goes the way of Shop 'Til You Drop Dead, and throws Ash into The Forbidden Realm briefly. Sounds cool, except that the Forbidden Realm, the place where the Deadites are supposedly coming from, is a twisted Wonderland (the Alice kind). The reason being that when the Deadites "swallow your soul", your personality becomes part of their group conciousness. This is all explained by H.P. Lovecraft himself, who, along with the original Herbert West and Sheila (Ash's medieval girlfriend) is also trapped in the Forbidden Realm. He also explains that the reason everything is all "Alice in Wonderland" is because Lewis Carroll has just been assimilated by the Deadites. Again, great idea, but why cram it into one issue of an already maxed out story?

Kuhoric's dialogue is a step up from Shop Til You Drop Dead, although a couple of jarringly nonsensical lines become stumbling blocks along the way (at one point, a Deadite White Rabbit screams at Ash: "My what big teeth I have!" to which Ash responds "All the better to bitch slap you with!"…uhhh…?), as do one or two editorial errors regarding spelling continuity, and the Deadite habit of "Roaarr!"ing early on feels a little uninspired. He's clearly a dude with some great ideas, it's just a pity that they all get mashed into a single four-issue story, when they would make even better individual arcs. It was the same problem with the sequences set in the future and the Tron sequences in Shop Til You Drop Dead. Another thing I can see being a problem for the more casual fan is the fact that at no point does Kuhoric make allowances for those who haven't read the Re-Animator one-shot, which could potentially leave a lot of people wondering what the Hell is going on in regards to West and Whately.

Unfortunately, the art suffers from the same problems as Shop Til You Drop Dead as well. The first issue has Sanford Greene on pencils, then issues two and three feature Nick Bradshaw in top form, then we're given Greene again for the final issue. A lot of people can deal with this, but I'm personally not a fan. Sanford Greene is capable of some really great work, but the style employed here simply doesn't suit Army of Darkness or Re-Animator. In all honesty too, his work really doesn't stand up to Bradshaw's, and when you get the better parts of the story pencilled by Bradshaw, it really doesn't do Greene any favours.

My gripes with the Army of Darkness comics have been pretty much the same since the first story. They've all had moments of greatness, but have so far failed to completely deliver a satisfying Army of Darkness experience. I'm positive that the series has it's fans (otherwise it probably wouldn't be into it's fifth miniseries with a sixth on the way), and I'm sure that those of you out there who enjoyed any of the previous three stories will really enjoy this one. I just find it a shame what starts off so well with the Re-Animator one-shot ends up being more of the same.
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