Army of Darkness/Bubba Ho-Tep #4
Scott Duvall (writer), Taylor Esposito (letters), Vincenzo Frederici (art), Diego Galindo, Robert Hack, Tom Mandrake and Sian Mandrake (covers), Kevin Ketner (Editor), Michele Monte (colors)
June 5th, 2019
The sound of an incoming helicopter crash precipitates the final issue of Army of Darkness/Bubba Ho-Tep. It’s a noise that’s strangely prophetic, as in a few economic pages the series is brought to an abrupt if messy conclusion with a few head-scratching questions left at the wayside.
Ash survives the fiery near-death experience, but Elvis seems to be a goner. Ash has little time to worry about that. He has bigger problems breathing down his neck. For it turns out the “Elvis” he’d flown with from Las Vegas to Graceland with is, in fact, not the King, but Sebastian Haff—the man who took over Elvis’ life at the other man’s behest during Bubba Ho-Tep—and he’s gone full Deadite. Ash is outmatched, it seems, until the older Elvis arrives.
There’s something incomplete about this turn of events. The book really could have benefited from following the older Elvis through space and time, as a counterbalance to what Ash has done throughout the story. I have no idea, ultimately, how he becomes his older self once more and how he got to the 1970s, if he’s the same Elvis who hung out with Ash earlier in the series or not, or how much of Sebastian was Elvis and vice versa. There’s a reason why.
Over the past three issues, we have gotten little of Elvis’ point of view and none of his adventures, and now that we’re at the end of the story, that sore lacking really drags the last issue down. I suppose it’s a good sign that I wanted more of him, but it helps make the whole experience feel incomplete. A final plot twist makes the whole how-did-older-Elvis-get-to-the-70s plot twist even more wholeheartedly incoherent, poking confusing holes in the mess that came before it.
There’s also a bit of a problem with the first half of the issue’s art. The muddy fight, conducted by flame-light during the evening, is poorly and incoherently edited, making the action very confusing and not giving it the breathtaking scope it deserves. The last few pages and the first page—which combine Esposito’s extremely creative lettering, Frederici’s usually-good art, and effective coloring by Monte to create an entertaining picture—are excellent.
But on the positive side, I liked Elvis and Ash’s continuing friendship. Their bonding and their compatibility have been the best part of every single issue in the series, and they leave readers wishing for more. And there’s a great moment where Ash manages to correctly translate ancient Chinese hieroglyphics while still struggling with the Necronomicon’s Sumerian.
All in all, Army of Darkness/Bubba Ho-Tep gets very close to being a fun experience, but its spottiness turns out to be a problem and a puzzlement that makes the series imperfect—fun, messy, and imperfect, just like the franchises that inspired it.