(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.