Army of Darkness/Bubba Ho-Tep #1
Scott Duvall (writer), Vincenzo Frederici (art), Michele Monte (colors), Taylor Esposito (letters), Carlos Gomez and Salvatore Aiala; Tom and Sian Mandrake; Robert Hack; Diego Galindo; Emma Kubert and Brittany Pezillo (covers)
February 13, 2019
During Army of Darkness’ long, twisted history as a Dynamite licensed property, Ash Williams has met other Bruce Campbell-played (and Sam Raimi created) characters, like Autolycus in three controversial Xena crossovers and Darkman in four issues. But this is the first time that Mr. Williams has met someone equal to him in iconic stature in Campbell’s pantheon: Elvis Presley, a.k.a. Sebastian Haff, the protagonist of Bubba Ho-Tep. The event is co-sponsored by IDW (who published the Joe Lansdale-written Bubba Ho-Tep and the Cosmic Bloodsuckers last year and own the comic production rights to the BHT character) in a cross-licensing event.
It’s a journey that doesn’t pause long for meditative contemplation, but it also doesn’t give us the short shrift on psychological complexity. As Ash Williams approaches East Texas to confront his idol with his copy of the Necronomicon, he’s approaching 42 (the age at which the real Elvis died) and still has no control over the life and destiny that the Necronomicon has foisted on him. He’s lost and looking for someone to help him, and the book does a pretty decent job of balancing out his angst with cool-minded one liners. He finds himself being led to an abandoned house in East Texas where the king’s been hiding out.
The big problem with this volume is how Elvis is written. He doesn’t quite have that wise, contemplative zing that he has in the movie, and the issue actually has him recycling some familiar lines of his from the film instead of giving him something fresh to say. Worse, it doesn’t tell us what happened to Elvis after the movie, where he seemingly peacefully passed away after killing the mummy. Perhaps later issues will answer that question. That’s not to say he comes off as flat, but to say that he could be much more than he is. Nonetheless, Ash’s fanboying as they battle is amusing, and this might be the beginning of an interesting partnership.
The plot is appropriately twisty and twisted, and we even get a full-on Raimi zoom through a moldering graveyard at one point. But this isn’t the best writing you’ve ever seen in an Army of Darkness comic. (Please treat yourself to the amazing Ash and the Army of Darkness and Ash Gets Hitched arcs if you want to witness the comic at its finest.) But it could be far, far worse; it’s serviceable, which leaves plenty of room to grow.
As for the art, it’s quite solid. The characters are very on-model, and colorful splash pages and jagged panels entertain. Its reliance on red, cyan, purple, and yellow—like an old ’70s pulp comic—help provide a knowing nod and wink, while also anchoring the reader in a time and place that reminds them of misspent childhoods spent with crumpled books and milk and cookies.
Wiser and more tender than Cosmic Bloodsuckers, and a better fresh start than many other attempts Dynamite has made to reboot the Army of Darkness franchise, Army of Darkness/Bubba Ho-Tep has a fine beginning that could develop into something that proves worthwhile as time goes on. Even if it doesn’t, a fun, fine time can be had while reading this first issue.