(w) Chad Bower & Chris Sims, Benito Cereno (a) Eoin Marron, Sam Lofti (c) Chris O’Halloran, Dee Cunniffe
The Evil Dead franchise is the crown jewel of slapstick horror. From the original trilogy of movies, the 2013 remake/sequel/reboot/reimagining, to the fantastic show Ash vs. The Evil Dead, this series is nothing but a crowd-pleaser. That holds true in this Halloween special courtesy of Dynamite Entertainment. Bearing the Army of Darkness branding (the 3rd in the movie series), this one-shot fittingly focuses very little in conjuring up scares in favor of some well-timed humor and bloody entertainment over the course of two stories.
Writers Chad Bower and Chris Sims are joined by Eoin Marron and Chris O’Halloran for the first story, entitled “Scared Shipless.” The plot for this tale is fairly straightforward, which historically works well for both one-shots and horror stories. The writers are acutely aware of what makes this universe – in particular the character of Ash Williams – appealing to audiences. He’s got the looks of a classic movie hero: tall, muscular, and square-jawed. However, he’s also an asshole. But it’s that character trait that often results in him stumbling into these ridiculous situations. This time, his bragging about past adventures in his online dating profile has him catfished to Charleston, SC and ultimately having to do battle against a resurrected Blackbeard and his pirate lackeys. The story is solid and entertains, but at the end of the day is forgettable.
A big reason for this being a forgettable story is the underwhelming artwork by Marron and O’Halloran. The color palette is flat and rather uninteresting. There are times when it can work, but Army of Darkness is not one of them – especially when contrasted against the beautiful cover by Reilly Brown. This also is true for the art Marron, whose art is both simple and cartoonish. Again, this style can work in certain instances, but it just doesn’t work, mostly due to the thick inking. As a whole, the artwork is serviceable, but that about it.
Dealing with ghost pirates isn’t the only problem for Ash, thanks to the second story: “Cemetery Man.” Again, it follows a simple premise, which is good because it’s limited to 10 pages. Benito Cereno makes the most of it by (rightfully) assuming readers of this book will have a cursory knowledge of Ash and this universe. He puts a lot of work into establishing the new characters and situation before everything goes to hell thanks to Deadites rising from the grave. The art by Sam Lofti and Dee Cunniffe is much stronger in this backup than the main feature, and it’s unfortunate that there’s such a limited space for them to show off their talents.
Dynamite’s Army of Darkness Halloween Special is a solid, stand-alone issue that almost anyone can pick up. While the $4.99 price tag may steer some away, it’s worth it for those looking for a fresh, new Halloween tale with atmosphere but few (if any) scares. It does the job in being entertaining, just don’t expect it to stay with you once the final page closes.