In the fourth installment of Niles and Calero’s “Ash and the Army of Darkness” series, we find ourselves traversing very familiar territory… in more ways than one. The setting, the objects, the horror tropes, and the characters are all straight from the film series. Making this the first issue of the series that’s unable to truly stand alone as a comic, acting more as a supplement to the third film in Raimi’s classic Evil Dead series, Army of Darkness.
WRITTEN BY: Steve Niles
ART BY: Dennis Calero
PUBLISHER: Dynamite Entertainment
RELEASE: February 19, 2014
When I say it’s familiar, well, yea… of course it is. It’s a spin-off. But it’s familiar in a way that the past three issues weren’t, it’s closer to a regurgitation of the film Army of Darkness as opposed to a continuation. For example, we find ourselves in the woods where Ash originally found the graveyard of Deadites and the Necronomicon. In addition to being back in the same place, we are also following a similar plot line. Ash is looking for the Necronomicon amongst the grave-filled woods in order to retrieve the Book of the Dead and save the land from an army of Deadites.
While there are a few differences this time around—Sheila joins Ash in the woods, there are 6 books of the dead instead of 3, and the Deadites aren’t attacking straight out the gate—the premise is no longer able to stand on its own. In order to fully understand what is happening in the sparse panels and appreciate the increasingly thinning plot of issue #4, you really need to have seen the films.
Among many of the classic tropes reused in the comic is that awesomely terrifying fast motion zoom from the films. You know, the one that’s accompanied by the vrooooooooom sound indicating that something evil is headed straight for Ash and it’s headed there fast. I found that Calero did a mighty fine job of recreating this motion in still panels. I was immediately thrown back into the warm, cozy familiarity of Evil Dead and felt a real grip of fear for the first time in 4 issues.
We also see a few other recognizable images from the film series like hands shooting out of graves and even Deadite Ash. As a fan of the films, it’s a lot of fun to relive and it gives me a little more of something I have always loved. But if I take myself out of the mindset of an Evil Dead buff, I wonder if these tropes would matter much to the common audience? Which in turn makes me wonder if Niles, Calero, and Dynamite ever set out to accomplish that feat in the first place?
Ultimately it comes down to this: “Ash and the Army of Darkness” is a fun supplement to the films. It’s a great read if you have a working knowledge of the Evil Dead mythology. If not, if you’ve never seen Bruce Campbell work his Ash-magic, you’re going to feel lost. You’ll feel like the wallflower at the cool kids’ party, the person who is sitting outside of the inside joke. And like I said, I’m not sure that’s a bad thing because I am not sure the creators set out to include everyone from the beginning.
Reviewed by – Bree Ogden