Death to the Army of Darkness #1 Shows Signs of Life

In a detail from the Sebastian Piriz cover for Death to the Army of Darkness #1, Ash Williams - a strong jawed white guy with dark hair - battles a green-faced bride before a large, bleeding heart. He has a chainshaw where his right hand should be, and his blue shirt is wide open.

This latest incarnation of Dynamite’s Army of Darkness comic starts out with a fun and well-characterized bang, with some nifty art to boot.

Death to the Army of Darkness #1

Mirka Andolfo (Cover); Kike J. Diaz (Colors); Jacob Edgar (Art); Ken Haeser (Cover); Ben Oliver (Cover); Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou (Letters): Ryan Parrott (writing); Sebastian Piriz (Cover): Arthur Suydam (Cover)
Dynamite Comics
February 12, 2020

In a parody of the Army of Darkness movie poster, Ash Williams - a well-muscled dark-haired man with a prominent chin and a wide-open shirt - stands back-to-back with a blonde woman in tight pants holding a shotgun over her shoulder. She peers back at the viewer while Ash stares at the camera. Where Ash's right hand should be is a chainsaw. Standing next to the woman is a dog with a blue bandanna around its neck. At Ash's foot is a miniature version of himself. They stand before a star-speckled night sky with trees shading them from on high

In the over twenty years Dynamite has possessed the Army of Darkness license, they have done a number of odd things with it. From sending Ash Williams on adventures with the Bubba Ho-Tep version of Elvis Presley to a team up with the Marvel Zombies, and ejecting him head-first from a volcano shaped like a butt with a flow of brown lava (yes really) to a cerebral examination of the toll the cabin has taken on his psyche, they’ve seemingly taken him everywhere and done everything with him.

Death to the Army of Darkness seeks to differentiate itself from the pile of Army of Darkness comics by splitting the focus – and Ash – several ways. But that’s a plot choice that, for the first issue, doesn’t encompass much of the plot. What does occupy the first issue is set-up, and a lot of it. But thanks to Ryan Parrott’s grasp of Ash’s character – a feat accomplished by few writers and last best essayed by Steve Niles in 2014 — this portion of the comic proves a treat.

Parrott grasps Ash’s everyday working man sensibility quite well, and manages to make him lovable (he spends time kidding around with a small child at work) sympathetic (he laments his life as the Chosen One and wishes for a normalcy while petting a dog’s head) and worth rooting for (he still gets knocked around by the evil, though his mettle is much sharper and he can battle back swiftly). His one-liners are properly macho (“I’m the big buck of this lick! If you wanna try it, come whet your horn!”) and goofy (“Abraham Lincoln said that!”). Instead of being an emotionless killing machine, he comes off as three-dimensional and well-grounded.

The fourth page of the first issue of Death to the Army of Darkness #1, which shows Ash interacting with a mother and child during a routine day at the S-Mart

Parrott too shows an affinity for the original characters he’s created, specifically Professor Tuttle, whom Ash turns to hoping to get answers about the Necronomicon, and Eugene, a laundromat layabout who misidentifies a Deadite as an alien. Thus far the female characters are suffering via comparison; we get two, a pretty blonde who goes Deadite during Ash’s laundromat flirtation, and a tiny glimpse of his female self, who for some reason is a redhead, but is also quick with a machete.

Jacob Edgar’s art is interesting — angular and cartoony, showing a Gilbert Hernandez influence. It’s appealing and easy on the eyes. Hassan Ostmane-Elhaou’s lettering is eye-catching, and colorwise, Kike J. Diaz has picked a sherbet-colored palette to draw with; pale oranges, pinks and dusky purples most often light his backgrounds – sometimes this highlights the mayhem and gore taking place in the foreground, and sometimes it feels like it flattens the images out.

Since the main plot conceit doesn’t play heavily in this issue, I’ll avoid delivering a full verdict on it. Otherwise Death to the Army of Darkness isn’t the worst start an Army of Darkness series has ever seen. Hopefully the rest of its stories will build on this decent beginning.