Kinky Komic Book Review: Army of Darkness Vs Re-Animator

(Submitted by Mr. Dr. Prince Adam of Themyscira…Thanks, Suoer Fiend! 🙂 xoxo)

“This Army of Darkness features the crossover no one ever expected to see: Army of Darkness vs. Re-Animator! Ash Vs. West! The Ultimate Lovecraftian battle as Herbert West leaps from the literary page to fight Ash! Winner takes all! Ash finds himself committed to Arkham Asylum. It’s here that he runs afoul of a rather ghoulish and creepy Herbert West… and the battle of the century begins!” (Dynamite)

I’ll be honest, I’ve never read anything by H.P. Lovecraft, nor do I have any knowledge of his work on the Re-Animator. What I have gotten used to is this Army of Darkness comic book.  The Deadites get free, chaos ensues and Ash has to defeat them, often haphazardly and leaving destruction and a bloody wake in the aftermath. This book has been able to keep this formula from getting repetitive twice over and does so a third time in this story.  Both stories since the movie adaptation has rejoined our hero shortly after the events of the film,  This story takes place literally minutes after “Shop Til You Drop Dead.”  Once again, before any of the present day action gets underway, Ash gives us a recap of the previous stories. What I like about this is that Ash pokes fun and acknowledges how ridiculous  and crazy the events that happen to him are.  This is the first time the book gets meta on us, When we get to present day story telling, Ash is surrounded in the S-Mart, by dead bodies and Detroit Police.  Ash is arrested and dubbed “The S-Mart Slasher”.  It makes sense that the police would blame him.  There is no evidence of Deadite presence, only dead shoppers, Ash covered in blood, with the only survivor being his girlfriend Sheila. A judge and jury deem him insane, and remand Ash to a mental facility for rehabilitation.  Things get interesting when the book shifts to the mental facility, named Arkham Asylum. Now either there’s a real mental hospital named Arkham Asylum in Detroit, Arkham Asylum was first created for Re-Animator, or this is a clever reference to Batman.  I’m going to assume it’s a Batman reference, so it remains cool and extremely awesome, which is what I thought when I first saw the reference.

Editor’s Note: Arkham is a fictional city that appears in many works by H.P. Lovecraft. Batman’s Arkham Asylum is a reference to Lovecraft.

What’s great about the Asylum setting is that new readers checking this out, will wonder if Ash is really crazy, only to discover he’s not as the story goes along.  Meanwhile,  long time fans know that he’s not crazy, the monsters are  real and things will get a lot worse.  This is where the Re-Animator comes in.  Herbert West is the head doctor, and in his spare time has been using the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis to perfect his Re-Animator formula, in an effort to defeat death.  He makes a deal to release the Old Ones, aka the masters of the Deadites. In exchange for Eternal life and a mastery over death, he will free them.  In anticipation of the Old Ones arrival, Herbert West opens a portal, releasing Deadites into the world.  I loved this for two reasons. Herbert West in trying to reanimate the dead, is a fresh take on more recent takes of zombies, while being a throwback to Frankenstein.  Also, it was refreshing to see the Deadites brought to Earth on purpose, rather then Ash bumbling a spell again and accidentally releasing them again. Herbert West had a bit of a Hugo Strange flavor to him. It wouldn’t surprise me if Batman writers borrowed from H.P. Lovecraft, when creating Doctor Hugo Strange.

Like previous issues, Ash has some help in his battle with the Deadites and Herbert West’s Frankenstein creations. In past issues, Ash’s help came in the form of an ancient sorcerer, much wiser then him.  Often, this humorously made Ash look like an inexperienced buffoon,  Here though, Ash is aided by a fellow inmate/movie buff and a parapsychologist, who both believe him to be the chosen one to defeat the Deadites and prevent an apocalypse.  The tables are turned this time, as the inmate/film buff Deuce Bellcamp is the clueless simpleton, whereas Ash is the Deadite fighting veteran.  Ash pokes fun at the fact that Deuce is a bit on the rotund size and is casually dismissive of the parapsychologist nicknamed Sugarbaby.  Ash’s trademark snark and attitude are on display here, but he never becomes so obnoxious that you can’t stand him.  Good on writer Jim Kuhoric for finding that balance.  The book once again gets meta, when these two unlikely allies return Ash’s chainsaw and broomstick.  These aren’t the genuine article, but instead props from a movie called Army of Darkness based on him.  They also tell him “fictional novels”, and a Broadway play based on him exist.  Is this some kind of art imitating life, inside of art stuff happening here.  Someone call Christopher Nolan, there’s some Inception level shit happening here! As the trio tries to escape Arkham Asylum,  Ash notices Sheila’s reflection in a mirror and is pulled into a Mirror Dimension.  There he discovers the real Sheila, the real Dr. Herbert West and even H.P, Lovecraft.  Meanwhile, Deuce and Sugarbaby are captured by the evil version of Dr. West. I like that H.P. Lovecraft is put into the book. A great homage to the creator of the Re-Animator.  You can definitely see the reverence the writer has for Lovecraft, as he is the one who gives Ash a special magical necklace, which allows him, and only him to escape. Before Ash escapes, he tells Sheila he will reunite her spirit with her body, freeing her from the mirror dimension. Back in the “real world” Deuce has been experimented on and his body parts used as part of the Re-Animated Masterpiece, which is multiple body parts sewn together from different people.  This “Ultimate” Frankenstein includes parts of Sheila’s body. When Ash returns, he rescues Sugarbaby, defeats the Re-Animated Masterpiece monster and prevents the Deadite Doppelganger of Herbert West from finishing a spell that would bring the old ones to Earth.  The Supernatural energy from that disruption, causes Arkham Asylum to collapse. Ash, Sugarbaby and even Herbert West’s evil doppelganger, manage to escape, before the entire building collapses.  I love that this ended on a cliff-hanger.  I have so many questions? Did Sheila die because her body was part of the Re-Animated Masterpiece? Or is her spirit still trapped in the Mirror Dimension? There’s even more of a reason to read the next volume now, not that I wasn’t going to anyways.

Sanford Greene and Nick Bradshaw share art duties for this story.  I have to give credit to Sanford Greene for his work on that recap page. It’s crammed with imagery from all 3 previous volumes but never feels like it’s overcrowded or too much to look at.  It looks as though it’s popping off the page, as if it were 3D! I loved the monsters that Ash first sees in Arkham Asylum.  They’re unique and look like a mix of a fruit on steroids, a Teletubby and a Pokémon.  We actually see drawn full pages of the Necromicon Ex-Mortis.  The imagery on the page was more muted, which was unique because the only other book I’ve seen with even less color, in black and white in fact, is The Walking Dead.  The other reason this is unique is because muted or black and white, usually denotes flashbacks but in this case, the book shows the events that are currently happening to Ash.  The Mirror Dimension looks like a dreary swamp. There is a cavernous underground bunker Here we see the real Herbert West, Sheila, and H.P. Lovecraft all in costume, as Alice in Wonderland characters. The Alice theme is here, as a nod to the portal that leads both Ash and Alice into another dimension being a mirror. It’s a nice bit of unplanned synergy, adding even more weirdness to this already strange story.   As soon as I saw these pages, I thought, if they turn this story into a film, either Guillermo Del Toro or Tim Burton should direct it.  The most gory and violent scene is the Arkham Asylum hallway scene.  Picture Wolverine during one of his berserker rages, now replace Wolverine and his claws, with Ash and his chainsaw and you get the picture.  The Re-Animator Masterpiece is almost a snake like looking collage of all different bodies stitched together, Frankenstein style. It’s quite uniquely grotesque.

Last volume had a few stumbles but was still enjoyable.  This book is a return to greatness, on par with the first few volumes. I still haven’t watched any of the Ash Vs. Evil Dead TV series, but this book led me to a resolution. After the next shortened season of Game of Thrones, I’m going to binge watch both seasons of Ash vs Evil Dead.  In the meantime, I’m going to read more Army of Darkness and so should you.

#TerrorTuesday: The Manster (1959)

It’s often said that two heads are better than one (hehe ;)), but I’d wager that the unfortunate victim in The Manster would strongly disagree.

Also known as The Split, The Manster is a peculiar tale of DEAD & shoulders.  It concerns an American foreign news correspondent who has been working out of Japan for the last few years. His final ass-ignment in Japan is to interview a reclusive scientist who, like all great scientists, lives atop a volcanic mountain. Needing a guinea pig for his unholy experiments, the bad doctor drugs the hapless reporter and injects him with a serum that causes a second head to sprout from his shoulder. I suppose that’s one way to grow on someone. 😉

What’s truly impressive about The Manster is that it’s one of those rare films that manages to be both unintentionally goofy and genuinely creepy at the same time. The film was shot in Black-and-White and makes excellent use of shadows to heighten the lurid atmosphere. While The Manster himself is a wonderfully silly thing, the sequence in which the reporter rips off his shirt to reveal an eye growing out of his shoulder is honestly nightmarish. It’s a gloriously gut-wrenching effect, especially for a low-budget fright fest from the late ’50s.
The Manster was the first film to play around with the theme of the two-headed man-made monster. Other examples of this heady trope include The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant (1971) and The Thing with Two Heads (1972).  The Simpsons parodied this idea in their second Treehouse of Horror special and again in the 2013 edition, making two segments for two heads. Sam Raimi directly referenced The Manster in an infamous scene in Army of Darkness, even going as far as to include the “shoulder eye” gag. I guess you could say that The Manster was a-HEAD of its time. (*insert Cryptkeeper cackle here* :))
For two heads of terror, check out The Manster below:

Comic Book Review: Army of Darkness: Shop Till You Drop Dead

(Submitted for your New Comic Book Day reading pleasure by Mr. Prince Adam…Thanks, you Groovy Guy, you!!  😉 xoxo)

“Grab the keys to the Oldsmobile and break out the boomstick ’cause Ash is back! The wisecracking everyman with a chin of steel comes face to face with something worse than Deadite possession: Unemployment.” (Dynamite)

Just as the Ashes 2 Ashes story picked up right where the movie adaptation left off, Shop Till You Drop Dead carries over the ramifications from Ashes 2 Ashes. Specifically Ash is called into his boss’s office, where he is informed that he will have to pay for the damages caused to the S-Mart store in his last battle with the Deadites. He will reimburse the store by forfeiting a paycheck for several years, until the hefty bill is paid off. In a rare occurrence, the consequences of our protagonist’s actions are dealt with and have consequences. Writer James Kuhoric does in a horror book what most superhero books fail, ignore or, are too fearful of doing. Prior to the craziness recommencing, we get a little taste of Ash’s normal work life dynamic. In these areas of the story, there seems to be a nod to the Archie comic books happening. Sheila and Mindy are both vying for Ash’s romantic attentions, while fellow employee’s look on in shock and amazement, curiously wondering how too beautiful women could be attracted to such a scatterbrained, arrogant individual. This absolutely mimics the love triangle between Archie, Betty and Veronica, and how their peers in Riverdale react to it. The Necronomicon returns in this book, after Ash’s boss, while on vacation, finds it on a resort in Egypt buried in the sand. Firstly, I like the continuity detail to the last story. Remember at the end of last issue, the book was buried in the sands of ancient Egypt. Secondly, the Necronomicon, I’d imagine, is like a mystical STD. No matter how much you treat certain STD’s they don’t go away. Just as, it appears no matter how many times this book is destroyed, it keeps coming back. The crazy action picks up when most customers in the S-Mart are revealed to be Deadites. Here’s where this book has to be careful. The scenes of the Deadite attack on the S-Mart are extremely similar to scenes from the movie adaptation. We have mini Deadite Ashes again, one of his colleagues loses a hand to a Deadite bite. Ash finds a chainsaw, attaches it to his coworkers hand and has him join the fight. It’s as if the writer said; “Well this worked before and everyone liked it, so let’s do it again!” The most intriguing aspect of this fight, is the fact that it takes place in the S-Mart, which provides our hero plenty of foreign convenience store objects to use in his arsenal. Another unique moment of this story is the time travel portion. Instead of going back into the past, Ash is thrown 500 years into the future. The Deadites are still plaguing humanity and the Necronomicon is still this mythologies McGuffin. Although, it is a digital computer program, which makes sense that far into the future. Hell, books are going digital now, imagine what’ll happen 500 years from now. Also, in the future, Ash’s battles with the Deadites have gone down in the annals of history. This ties in nicely with his trip to the past, where he was a part of the prophecy and his battles with Deadites were foretold. In both the past and future, the people Ash meets find it preposterous when he tells him he is that warrior battling the Deadites. That commonality between past and future, along with Ash’s attempts to justify his claims are hilarious. Once Ash gets back to the present, his defeat of the Deadites is rather predictable to be honest. However, the last act is redeemed by the Easter egg at books end, which hints at the arrival of an evil, robotic Deadite Ash from the future to present day Detroit.

While the writer changed for this story, art was still handled by Nick Bradshaw, with an assist by Sanford Greene on the third issue. It seems to me that with every issue Nick Bradshaw tries to top himself with the bloody violence and gore. Seeing a Deadite get shot in the face and back of the head, caused some epic levels of blood spatter and grotesque facial disfigurement. The page where Ash finds the chainsaw stuck in that fake log, and the store display is lit up and he pulls the chainsaw out of the display, had a nod and hint of the Sword in the Stone to it. The overt sexiness with which Mindy and Sheila were drawn was of the charts. It had me wondering when we’ll get an Ash Vs the Evil Dead porn parody. Or has there been one and I somehow missed it? The scene in the cellar of the S-Mart, was the most traditional looking horror locale in the whole book. The coloring gave it an appropriate atmosphere. The Deadite possessed furnace looked pretty badass, but reminded me of that scene in Home Alone. You know the one I’m talking about. The art in issue 3 was even more cartoonish and stylized then Nick Bradshaw, so I’m not too hot on Sanford Greene’s work overall. However, there are two aspects I enjoyed. First was the metallic look of the future. It matched perfectly with a society that was 100% reliant on technology for everything. Secondly, the imagery of Ash fighting with a futuristic computerized Deadite version of himself looked like a mashup of Tron Legacy and Mega Man.

This book wasn’t as good as the Army of Darkness Movie adaptation or Ashes 2 Ashes. It relied too much on sticking to the tropes of the series and felt more like déjà vu then a new story. Having said that, this book was a hell of a lot of fun. It’s so crazy and violent and funny, I’m willing to forgive them resting on their laurels. So long as it doesn’t keep happening over and over. This definitely is still a must read for fans of the series.

Comic Book Review: “Army of Darkness” Movie Adaptation

(Big thanks to Prince Adam for this…Sorry I didn’t quite get it posted in time for the Starz premiere, but acts of pure genius take time, y’know??? 😉 xoxo)

“Adapted from the screenplay by Sam and Ivan Raimi. Adapted and illustrated by John Bolton. This trade paperback presents the complete adaptation of the Army of Darkness feature film! Featuring 88 pages of non-stop Ash action”

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When the description says complete adaptation of the feature film, they really mean it. It’s pretty much all here. The book does move at a brisk pace, but not because the story’s been dramatically edited, but rather because the story hits the ground running and never allows you a chance, want, or need to put it down. All the major moments from the film are all covered and handled faithfully. We have Ash’s discovery of the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis, and his subsequent transportation to 1300 A.D. We see his time as a slave, and his ultimate emergence as a hero when he escapes the pit, and battles the deadite and survive. The battle at the windmill with the mini mirror versions of himself is intact, and affirmed itself as one of my favourite moments of the book, just as it was in the film. And then of course, the third act battle with his evil doppelganger Anti-Ash and his undead army, For me, this adaptation because even though I’ve seen it, the change in mediums from film to comic, makes it fresh and exciting. And if you haven’t seen any of the Evil Dead films, and somehow stumble upon this comic book/graphic novel, you will be fascinated. It’s probably one of the darkest, weirdest sci-fi/horror stories I’ve ever read, while also being the most humorous. Speaking of humor, a lot of it comes from the thought bubbles. When Ash is monologing in his mind, it seems as if he’s recounting the story we are seeing, presumable to a co-work like in the film. Most of the humorous dialogue can be found here. There’s one crack about horses, that I’m sure wouldn’t make PETA laugh, but hearing the line in Bruce Campbell’s voice, certainly made me chuckle. You can’t help but love the character of Ash, he’s the everyman. He’s brash, tells it like it is, has a penchant for violence, and will kick ass when he needs to, and likes to kick back with some beers. If you think of it, he’s like the horror genre’s Stone Cold Steve Austin in a way. Even though he stays in the past long enough to help vanquish his Deadite clone and the Army of Darkness, and even though he begins to fall for Sheila, it never feels like one of those forced or clichéd moments. Ash’s personality is never compromised to placate Hollywood stereotypes. I loved that the book chose to use the films intended ending, rather than the one featured in the theatrical cut of the film. Ash drinking too much potion, and oversleeping, and waking up in what looks like a post apocalyptic London. This ending works because it is more in line with Ash being a bit aloof, and it makes sense that he’d drink too much of the potion, causing him to oversleep, thus waking up in the wrong time. It also offers plenty of story potential that I hope the comic books delve into.

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John Bolton not only adapted the film’s screenplay from a writing standpoint, he also drew the adaptation. Being both writer and artist on a book is demanding work, so Mr. Bolton gets an extra tip of the hat from me. What I like about the art is that the characters bare a very strong resemblance to their live action counterparts. It’s not as true to life, or detailed as Alex Ross art, but virtually no one can live up to that standard. But the resemblance to Bruce Campbell helped because I was hearing his voice when I read the dialogue. It definitely made for a more immersive experience. Two scenes that were drawn absolutely perfectly were the battle with the Deadite in the pit, and Ash Vs the Mini-Mirror versions of himself. This is a fine example of transplanting screen to page. I think these two pages are the closest you can get to transferring the actual film cells to the printed page. As far as a favourite single page, that would have to be the third page where Evil Ash has his deadites bring Sheila to a baron location, and we see him sitting on a makeshift throne in the middle of nowhere. This page visual hits the point home that Evil Ash is the King of the dead. Also, for anyone else who read it, was there a little bit of nip slip when Evil Ash was forcefully groping Sheila, or were my eyes playing a trick on me? Every time I see something set in a medieval period, my mind always drifts to Game of Thrones, and I fell into that trap again, until Ash’s tricked out Oldsmobile Delta 88 comes crashing through the castle door. You’d think without the sounds or musical score of a film that, the juxtaposition of that imagery would feel awkward or seem out of place maybe? Nope, it’s just a badass action sequence. The only problem I had art wise, was what seemed to be an almost Instagram like filter on the page. I would assume this is a colorists decision, and at times the grainy look of it took away from the detail of the art. Secondly, the blood and gore in this book seemed to be predominantly take place in the first issue of the three issue arc and was pretty sparse the rest of the way. Maybe it’s just the way the screenplay had to be split into comic book form, but I remember the film featuring more blood and gore.

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If you’ve seen this movie or any movie in the Evil Dead trilogy, this graphic novel, will elicit positive memories for you. Don’t be surprised if you are in the mood to have a marathon viewing of the entire trilogy. A newbie to the franchise will definitely get everything they need to get hooked on the series, and be left wanting more. Either way, this book is a great primer to get you ready for Ash Vs Evil Dead which brings the series to live action television on Starz, premiering which premiered on Halloween (and was awesome 😉  -D.P. ;)).