Tales of the Army of Darkness (2006)
By: Tristan Jones on June 29, 2006  |  Comments ()  |  Share 
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Writers: James Kuhoric, Robert Kirkman, Shawn Spurlock, Andy Hartnell, Robert Place Napton
Art: Michael O'Hare, Paul Azaceta, Nick Acs, Filip Sablic, Ryan Ottley, Nick Bradshaw
Here we go guys and gals, so far, the Army of Darkness comics have been a bit hit and miss in my opinion, but as we all know, opinions differ. If you've been catching my past reviews of the books, then you know that there are signs of promise to them, and that they're clearly finding an audience, but if you haven't had a chance to read them for yourselves, or have been hesitant in grabbing an issue based one what you've read (by me or someone else), Dynamite Entertainment has finally released Tales of the Army of Darkness, a collection of six short Army of Darkness stories and the perfect starting point for the curious.

Each story is written in a similar story to the major arcs that have already hit the shelves. Series writers James Kuhoric (Shop Til You Drop Dead and Vs. Re-Animator) and Andy Hartnell (Ashes 2 Ashes) both return with enjoyable stories, Robert Kirkman of Image's Walking Dead fame also contributes with a nice, uncomplicated story that ties in to both Army of Darkness and Evil Dead 2. Also contributing are newcomers Shawn Spurlock and Robert Place Napton.

The first story, Deadites, Dames and a Dim-Wit is the only one that links into any of the comics that have come so far, being set just after the events of Ashes 2 Ashes. Kuhoric has obviously also picked up on what was one of my bigger gripes with the first arc, that being Ash's ludicrous forgetting of the Necronomicon after the climactic battle at the end of the story. It's a pretty good example of Kuhoric's writing style, and thankfully doesn't have enough time to start jumping dimensions or become bogged down in ideas. Beware though, if you don't like the Deadite dialogue then you're going to be cringing should you decide to buy the other comics afterwards. Nick Bradshaw provides pencils for this particular story, and while his artwork is always nice to look at, there isn't enough here for him to truly shine. His best work on the series so far has definitely been Ashes 2 Ashes.

The second story is Robert Kirman's Weekend Off. It's a nice straightforward story, presenting probably the most accurate Ash so far. The story is a simple eight-pager, with Ash going to visit Linda's grave. The art is contributed by another Image artist, this time being Invincible's Ryan Ottley. The art is a breath of fresh air, retaining the familiar pencilling aesthetic, but coloured in such a way that the whole thing looks painted. This one's probably my favourite out of the six, simply because it's a change of pace, both in terms of story and character portrayal.

Kuhoric returns with You Have No Honour, which tells the tale of Kay'Lore, the slave driver seen at the start of Army of Darkness (the film). It's stories like these that I love about "Tales of" books. It basically follows Kay'Lore as he falls victim to circumstances and comes out looking like an idiot during the epic battle that takes place between Ash and the Deadites. It's a clever story, but Kuhoric's attempt at Medieval English dialogue does have a lot of room for improvement. I often find it's better when writers don't emphasise accents, as the reader (especially the comic reader) often puts the correct vocal interpretations on characters internally anyway. Still, a good little story with great art by Filip Sablic.

The fourth story sees the return of Andy Hartnell, with a story that, while it doesn't seem to fit into the established continuity of the comics, is a nice little read nonetheless. Basically, Ash has finally met the girl of his dreams, she hasn't been possessed and the two are in love. One morning after a nightmare, the two have a dispute thanks to some poor word choices on the girl's behalf and things move on. Nothing complex, and not really one for the gorehounds, Till Death Do Us Part is a clever piece by Hartnell who, like Kuhoric seems best suited to straightforward ideas. The artwork is by Nick Acs, whose pencils are uncannily close to Bradshaw's.

Now for the weird one, and there's always one in these anthologies. Written by Shawn Spurlock, Necronomicon sees Ash returning home for Thanksgiving Dinner with his parents, only for some reason, his mother is a Deadite, his dad doesn't care, and the Kandarian Dagger from Evil Dead is in the Turkey. It's interesting, albeit confusing. Paul Azaceta's art isn't exactly my cup of tea, however, his style is distinctly more Evil Dead than Army of Darkness.

The final story finishes the book rather nicely with Ash coming to the aide of a young hitchhiker picked up by a Deadite redneck. Runaway is a combination of decent writing and great art, the only real problem being that the story isn't really much of a story, more of a moment, but I have a feeling Robert Place Napton and Michael O'Hare would shine if they were given a full arc to work on.

As I said, I've been a bit critical on the larger Army of Darkness stories so far, largely due to how overly complex they make themselves, and this is why I really enjoyed this little compilation. The stories are nice and easy to follow, none of them really having time to bog themselves down, and the artwork for the most part is fantastic to look at. It's probably the best place to start if you're wanting to get into the Army of Darkness comics, and it's definitely the best of all the comics Dynamite has put out in the series so far. Not perfect, but still pretty damn good.
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