Written by Andy Hartnell
Illustrated by Nick Bradshaw
Published by Dynamite Entertainment
Depending on which one of the countless versions of Army of Darkness you’ve seen, there are only two conclusions director Sam Raimi ultimately burned to celluloid. When we last left Ash – resourceful, bumbling hero of the Evil Dead trilogy – he was either trapped in a ravaged, distant future England or blowing away fine Deadite ass at his place of employment, S-Mart. It’s this latter scenario scribe Andy Hartnell and illustrator Nick Bradshaw have chosen to start their overly familiar nonetheless very welcome Ashes 2 Ashes, the first mini-series in Dynamite Entertainment’s now on-going Army of Darkness line. Hartnell has captured the voice of our witless, chainsaw-wielding “promised one” so that it’s both true to Raimi’s universe and respectful to the enormous fan base out there who have been cravin’ more Ash antics, in turn, Bradshaw’s art is an appropriate compliment to the slapstick narrative. Better still, it’s got a jaw-dropping amount of detail I never expected even if it does sometimes work against the reading experience.
Ashes kicks off on the right foot for the sake of the uninitiated by recapping the events of Evil Dead II and AoD. Ash goes to cabin. An unseen force possesses his girlfriend. Possesses his hand. He chops it off. Gets a chainsaw. Goes back in time. Retrieves the Necronomicon. Is returned to his own time. Alright, now we’re back up to speed, but something is…off. After blowing a few holes in the aforementioned Deadite at S-Mart, Ash finds the Wise Man has traveled from 1300 A.D. to inform our hero that he arrived in his time too damn early – which means that Ash has returned home before the events of Evil Dead II and has to act all Marty McFly to ensure his other self – I’ll call ‘im “Ash 2″ – follows his destiny.
As Ash reiterates time and again, I hate time travel, especially when it’s relied upon as a major plot device. The narrative could get too complicated for its own good and lose its reader (or viewer, whether it’s cinema or comics). Here, however, Hartnell dispenses with the time travel bullshit quickly and before ya know it, Ash is back in the woods giving it to some possessed, cackling animals boomstick-style and going chainsaw-to-chainsaw with his future self until Ash 2 is thrust into the time portal and whisked off to the 1300s where the events of AoD will unravel. (Confused? It’s harder for me to explicate than ya think, knucklehead, so bear with me.) His mission in the can, Ash and the Wise Man become a two-man “fellowship” and travel to Egypt with the Necronomicon, the only place on Earth where the book of the dead can be destroyed; naturally a resurrected army of corpses march in the way of accomplishing this task. Without a medieval army of his own to stand behind him, can Ash give the Evil Dead the slip one more time and save his ass in the process?
Let’s be clear about one thing upfront. Ashes 2 Ashes stinks with the trappings of a sequel. Ash runs through some recognizable scenarios and runs through the grocery list of all of those instantly quotable lines of dialogue we’ve heard in the previous films. You can forgive Hartnell for the somewhat rehashed material, however, because it’s actually done right. And I’ve always believed if you’re going to tread down a familiar path, at least do so with a new approach, which Hartnell does with a maniacal sense of pace. Besides the utter geeky glee ya get from seeing Ash do battle with himself, we’re introduced to some new abilities Ash can pull off with his metal hand as well. Then you’ve got some choice Ash mannerisms, cheesy machismo, one-liners and bucket loads of blood to satisfy every famished gorehound out there. Capturing the zany appeal of Hartnell’s script, artist Bradshaw overloads each page with enough action to make you really pause and take notice before moving on to the next. The flow of the paneling can throw ya off at times but the respect I have for the time Bradshaw put into the art far outweighs this minor quibble. It’s cartoony. It’s appropriate. I would hope Raimi and Bruce Campbell would approve as should those fans of the Evil Dead series who are awaiting a fourth cinematic chapter that may never come. And if it doesn’t, Ashes 2 Ashes is a groovy alternative to satiate your Army of Darkness fix.
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