Welcome back to Haunted MTL’s Graphic Content – in this installment, we cover the new title, The Army of Darkness: 1979 #1. This is a special treat as it introduces a new title from column-favorite writer Rodney Barnes of Killadelphia. Killadelphia is one of the best horror comics of 2020 and 2021 – so expectations here are pretty high.
Does this new comic deliver a great Evil Dead-style story? Let’s find out.
The Army of Darkness: 1979 #1
In the South Bronx of 1979, gangs gather. Dressed in flashy, thematically appropriate outfits, you would assume we are re-treading ground from Walter Hill’s 1979 gangsploitation film, The Warriors. And you would not be far off; these gangs seem to control the city and come to a meet, only to find themselves at the mercy of a new gang, the Warlocks. And to make matters worse, this new gang is holding the Necronomicon Ex Mortis straight out of The Evil Dead. Now throw in Ashley Williams in 2021, looking for work, only to be pulled through time by a Deadite portal in the midst of a supernatural gang war.
It’s a fun setup for a story featuring America’s favorite chainsaw-handed sweetheart. This story comes from the age-old storytelling process of “what if *this* in *this*?” and it already seems to be paying off. The story comes from Rodney Barnes, the writer of my favorite horror series of 2020/2021, Killadelphia. Barnes’ history of writing for film and TV pays off here with Ash, and Barnes nails the first issue setup. We have a fun conflict, our unwilling hero, and immediate complications, all done in around just over 20 pages. Barnes also has an excellent grip on what makes Ash such a fun protagonist. You can’t read Ash’s lines without hearing them. So, high marks for getting the character right.
My biggest issue is that the book seems deep into the continuity of The Army of Darkness comics, and there is a missed opportunity. Take, for example, Ash in 2021. For people who may only be picking up the book because Barnes is attached after the considerable success of Killadelphia, there may be confusion. After all, some readers may only be picking up the story with knowledge of the movies and the recent TV show. The Ash of recent years is undoubtedly older than the Ash portrayed in the book, and the ending of The Army of Darkness film didn’t seem to place Ash in 2021. So… what gives? Some catch-up of events from the mouth of Ash would have worked wonders here. A pithy narration highlighting the fundamental continuity of events would eliminate a lot of potential confusion. It would also be a fun read, given Rodney Barnes’ apparent knack for writing Ash’s dialogue.
The art is appropriate for the story, with good attention to detail to make that tropey 1970s New York as dirty and dangerous as possible. Backgrounds have texture and are laced with tagging, litter, and broken windows. It looks like the cinematographic New York from movies like The Warriors. So, very high marks indeed for artist Tom Garcia. His character work is strong, with characters finding that right mix between cartoony and realism, which benefits the more exaggerated nature of this world. His Ash is also quite good. Ash Williams is more or less a cartoon to begin with, so his square jaw, chainsaw hand, and blue shirt are among the easiest things to get right. Not to diminish Garcia’s approach, however, more that the living cartoon that is Ash informed the rest of the look of the cast, down to the garish gang looks. Additionally, Dinei Ribero’s colors are well done, particularly in using sickly hues of green and red.
A mashup of classic Evil Dead-style fun with a wild world inspired by The Warriors promises to be an exciting ride. Barnes confidently captures for voice and character of Ashley Williams, and the pastiche of the 1970s street punk classic feels authentic. The only real downside is that while relatively self-contained, the series builds on a whole publishing history of Army of Darkness comics from Dynamite Entertainment so that new readers may have many questions. Ultimately, while this feels like another “episode” of the adventures of Ash, a little more context might be helpful for people jumping on board.(4 / 5)
The Army of Darkness: 1979 was written by Rodney Barnes with art by Tom Garcia. Dinei Ribero contributes colors while Troy Peteri handles the lettering. You can buy this issue directly from Dynamite Entertainment, or your local comic book shop.
Are you a big fan of the Evil Dead series? What did you think of The Army of Darkness: 1979? Let us know in the comments, and feel free to pitch comics to review.
Next week we return to classic Swamp Thing.