by Jessica Greenlee
Ash and the Army of Darkness begins a new adventure for Ash and starts with the line: “My name is Ash, and I’m an idiot.” It’s an unusual and attention-grabbing way to begin a tale of horror and mayhem.
Steve Niles spends much of the issue setting the stage for the adventure to come and catching readers up on the events of the past. Ash tells two co-workers in a store the tale of how he was foolish enough to go to a cabin in the woods where someone read an incantation from The Book of the Dead, forcing him to fight the Deadites and to figure out how to bring himself forward in time to where and when he belongs. From quite early in his narration, attacks by the undead make it plain that his escape and restoration was not nearly as successful as he asserts, though his nonchalance in dealing with them almost sells the story. By the end of the tale, one, possibly two new villains have been introduced, and Ash is once again going to have to figure out how to escape, find the book, and say the incantation–hopefully correctly this time.
The introduction is only partially successful: The basics of what has happened are clear, but there is little emotional resonance. A reader who approaches this without having read prior adventures knows what happened, but not why it matters, and it is unclear whether or not the reveal of the first major villain is meant to be a shock. The inevitable deaths accompanying anything related to a volume called “The Book of the Dead” also lack impact: The characters who die were so slight their deaths cause neither sorrow nor shock.
Dennis Calero’s colors underline the story’s tone. Muted and muddy coloration enhance the sense that none of the worlds or times displayed is fully alive. The store where Ash begins is a subdued grey-blue; even the red of the advertisements is toned down. The area overrun by the Deadites is appropriately dead: brown, grey, dusty, a dulled. Even Arthur’s court is washed-out.