Army of Darkness: Old School (2006)
By: Tristan Jones on July 8, 2006  |  Comments ()  |  Share 
Written by: James Kuhoric
Art: Kevin Sharpe
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Issue: 3
Finally! James Kuhoric has hit his stride. Up until now, the Army of Darkness comics have failed to live up to their full potential. They've been okay, but never anything really more than that, and after reading Army of Darkness: Old School – a three issue miniseries following Army of Darkness Vs. The Re-Animator – I have realised why. They just didn't feel like Army of Darkness. Each arc started well, but by the end they had all mutated into something else entirely. Now, with Old School, the Army of Darkness comics have finally reached that potential I always knew they could.

After the destruction of Arkham Asylum at the end of Vs. The Re-Animator, Ash and token piece of arse "Sugarbaby" come to the conclusion that they must return to the cabin from Evil Dead and sever the spiritual anchor that is tying the Deadites to the world of the living. It's a straightforward enough story, and thankfully doesn't deviate at any point into any Wonderland or Tron-like dimensions, or become hampered by corny dialogue "borrowed" from the films (except for one line).

Old School delivers exactly what it intended to from the very beginning: a return to the old school stylings of the original Evil Dead. In other words, we get a gory return to what Army of Darkness essentially should be… a horror story. In all honesty, I seriously doubt any of the other artists on the series could have made this story work either. Newcomer to the series Kevin Sharpe delivers the best art of the series so far. As much as I like Bradshaw's work, Sharpe's pencils, along with Blond's colours truly make this story. Had Bradshaw done the art chores on Old School it probably wouldn't be as good as it is, simply because it would completely change the tone of the story. In fact, had Sharpe been the artist on the previous arcs, I might have been able to take them a little more seriously. His pencils are far more realistic in contrast to Sanford Greene and Bradshaw, making it feel more like a part of the Evil Dead story than any of the ones beforehand.

The nature of the story is much more along the lines of what I'd been expecting from the beginning. If you've read my review of Army of Darkness Vs. The Re-Animator, you'd have noticed the comment made about Kuhoric cramming too many good ideas into one arc. Old School is a perfect example of what I was getting at. By taking one idea and fitting it into a shorter issue span, Kuhoric has struck gold. The story never gets bogged down, and manages to please fans so much more by throwing in more appropriate nods such as the return of Scotty from Evil Dead, and also tying story elements across all the Evil Dead films into the one story. Kuhoric's back story on the Deadites themselves is genuinely cool as well.

The dialogue is certainly head and shoulders above the other major arcs that have come before it, sans the terrible accent on the bartender at the very beginning, and the Deadites no longer scream the same repetitious garbage they were prone to in prior arcs as well.

Old School is easily the best thing to happen in Army of Darkness since the announcement of the series itself, but it's not quite perfect. When you read it, you can't help but wonder why it took so long for this sort of story to come about, and in thinking that, you wonder what the series would be like if it had started like this. My only major gripe with this arc is the fact that the final few pages suddenly jump to New York, where we are presented with a blurb stating that the reader should check the Monster War comics to get the full picture as to what's going on. I usually don't mind these things if they reference older comics in a series a reader might collect, but totally unrelated books that the reader would otherwise have no real intention of checking out kind of bugs me. It's as though it's forcing readers to get their hands on the unrelated book. (Still, this is coming from a dude who's signed on for anything with Civil War printed on it…)

Anyway, a couple of Germans, accompanying the most recent in the Van Helsing bloodline, have finally found the body of Dracula in a waterfront warehouse. One of them stupidly removes a silver cross embedded in Dracula's forehead, bringing him back to life, and paving the way for the next major storyline… Army of Darkness Vs Dracula. Sounds kinda cool, but so did Army of Darkness Vs. The Re-Animator, and the fact that you need to check out a completely unrelated series to find out what's going on is a definite pain in the arse.

Hopefully Kevin Sharpe will still be on board for pencils, and hopefully we don't find history repeating itself, as cover previews seem to indicate that not only will Ash be up against Dracula, but the Wolfman and Frankenstein's monster as well.
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