Just another day in the life of Ashley J. Williams. This is Cullen Bunn’s first line in his new book, “Army of Darkness.” So who is Ashley J. Williams? Do you really need to ask? Should I even bother explaining? Okay, fine, I’ll tell you. Ash is the 24th Greatest Movie Character of All Time and voted the Number #1 Greatest Horror Movie Character of All Time by EMPIRE magazine. Played by Bruce Campbell in The Evil Dead , Evil Dead II, and Army of Darkness and will soon be reprising his role as the S-Mart clerk with a chin in the Evil Dead series onStarz (Ash Is Back! Starz Announces “Evil Dead” Series!) In Dynamite Comics new horror/comedy title, “Army of Darkness”, we are reintroduced to Ashley J. Williams and follow just another day in his life.
“Army of Darkness” issue #1 begins with a down and dirty recap of the Evil Dead films. Ash brought his girlfriend to a secluded cabin, found a demonic book known as the Necronomicon, read from it and that’s where things go bad. Unleashing deadites, he lost his girlfriend and was soon transported to the Dark Ages, where he was hailed as king and then things go bad, again! Following the last series of comics Dynamite published, the story of “Army of Darkness” was expanded on to include a new character named Artemus Vrill. Vrill is a deadite worshipper, written by Cullen Bunn as a “fruity-loopy sorcerer, astrologer, alchemist, and major demonic pain in the rear.” He unleashes a portal (something known to happen after reading the Necronomicon) and transports the both of them to a space shuttle launch. This is where things go bad for the third time. The rest of the issue follows Ash’s wacky misadventure through space while he attempts to destroy the remaining deadites and put an end to Vrill.
Cullen Bunn is perfectly suited to bring Ashley J. Williams to life in comic-book format. Bunn is an adept writer of dialogue and each bubble reads as if it came directly from Bruce Campbell’s mouth. The story never seems artificial or a disservice to what Sam Raimi originally created in 1981. Ash is a character who could seemingly go anywhere and do anything! He’s a classic film character that doesn’t take himself serious as a classic film protagonist. Raimi knew it, Campbell knew it, and Cullen Bunn nails it! When we find Ash in space, fighting for his life 200+ miles above the Earth, we know immediately what we’re in for. Bunn goes for it, reveling in the fun, campy goodness of the Evil Dead movies by constantly placing Ash in more and more outrageous situations. If you thought the cover title of “Ash in Space” was crazy, wait until you see him fight off a bunch of “undead pukes” in zero gravity with his chainsaw and boomstick! Did I also mention that he fights them in space, where we all know that no one can hear you scream? “Hail to the Space King, Baby!” Ash declares.
Cullen Bunn, having previously written the other “Army of Darkness” series, is the perfect writer for the tongue-in-cheek, smarmy heroics of Ashley J. Williams. He plays every beat of the sci-fi/horror/comedy for the romp that it should be. Artist Larry Watts does more than service the story with enough nuance that pays homage to the previous versions of Ash and the Army of Darkness series. He illustrates a book that ranges from the surprisingly colorful to the depressingly bleak, all while never letting up on the comedic gore. “Army of Darkness” issue #1 looks like an “Army of Darkness” book should look. His art is comparable to the style Robert Hack brings to the breakout hit “Sabrina, The Teenage Witch.” The pairing of Bunn and Watts is the perfect collaboration that makes “Army of Darkness” such a fun title to read.
So who is Ashley J. Williams? Is he the chosen one according to the mumbo jumbo of prophecies? Is he just Mama Williams little boy that becomes a savior of the people? Maybe he’s just an S-Mart clerk that could have been king. Either way, you should have some fun and find out for yourself with Cullen Bunn and Larry Watts’ “Army of Darkness.”
“Army of Darkness” issue #1 gets four out of five stars.