Published on June 16th, 2015 | by Steven Roman
Review: Evil Dead 2 #1
For a guy with a chain saw in place of a right hand and an ego as mammoth as his jawline, Ashley “Ash” Williams—the rugged, demon-fighting he-man lead character of the cult-class movie trilogy The Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn, and Army of Darkness—sure remains a popular guy these days. A lot of that has to do with Bruce Campbell, the actor who brought Ash to life in 1981 and who’s since become the personification of pop-culture coolness through his starring and supporting roles in such TV series as The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena: Warrior Princess, Jack of All Trades, and, most recently, Burn Notice.
But Ash is the first character people think of when they hear Campbell’s name, and after many years of fan pleas for the two to be reunited, these days there’s plenty of Ash to go around: an after-credits cameo in the 2013 remake of Evil Dead; Dynamite Entertainment’s continuing Army of Darkness series of miniseries; the upcoming live-action Ash vs. Evil Dead series, starring Campbell, on cable channel Starz; hell, the very weekend I received my review copy, the El Rey Network was broadcasting The Evil Dead Trilogy as a programming block. And now, courtesy of Space Goat Publishing, we have the first in a brand-new, three-issue comic miniseries: Evil Dead 2: Beyond Dead by Dawn.
Evil Dead 2: Beyond Dead by Dawn #1—written by Frank Hannah (Batman: Arkham Origins, Action Comics), shot from the pencils of Barnaby Bagenda (Omega Men, Heavy Metal) and Oscar Bazaldua (BloodRayne: Prime Cuts), and colored by Chris Summers (G.I. Joe, Hack/Slash: Slice Hard)—starts during the closing minutes of ED2, and handily provides a quick recap of the movie. If you’re unfamiliar with the setup, it goes like this: Ash and his girlfriend, Linda, go to a cabin in the woods, where they discover a copy of the Necronomicon Ex Mortis—the dreaded Book of the Dead—along with the notes and recordings of the cabin’s owner, Professor Knowby, who’s been translating the spellbook. Ash plays back one of the recordings, and all hell breaks loose: Linda gets possessed by an evil force, and Ash is forced to kill her. Then Ash’s hand, infected earlier by a bite from the possessed Linda, tries to kill him. He amputates the murderous appendage and replaces it with a chain saw(!). Then the professor’s daughter, Annie, shows up with additional pages of the book, and, after being stabbed by Ash’s free-range hand, recites a spell that opens a temporal portal that sucks in the evil dead—along with Ash and his Buick Oldsmobile! Annie dies from her wound, and Ash finds himself in medieval England, which sets up the next film, Army of Darkness.
The bump in the road for this miniseries, plot-wise, is that there’s no wiggle room to truly have Ash involved in the storyline—he’s stuck in the real-life Renaissance Festival that was AD 1300 (not to mention about to deal with a certain scantily clad vampiress in Dynamite’s upcoming Vampirella/Army of Darkness miniseries). How, then, do you do a sequel to Evil Dead 2 when your hero has been lost in time and space? By following the adventures of Annie the dead girl and Ash’s evil, amputated hand, in hell—that’s how!
As licensed comics go, it’s a risky approach that could either impress Ash fans or piss them off that they’re being asked to follow a character that showed up halfway through the source movie, portrayed by an actress who quit films not too long after ED2 was released. (Sarah Berry’s Internet Movie Database entry lists ED2 as her first movie appearance, and that her second and final role, before focusing on her stage career, was in a bit part in 1989’s C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud; her Wikipedia page makes no mention of ED2.) Hannah, though, manages to keep the story moving fast enough in this first issue that there’s no time to dwell on Ash’s absence—and then he comes up with a way to involve Ash in the story anyway. You’ll have to read it to find out what I mean; it’s a plot twist that makes perfect sense—in the Evil Dead universe, that is. I just hope that for issue two Hannah eases back on Annie’s tough talk when she confronts demons—issue-one lines like “That’s right! Anyone else want some?” and “That’s right, beyotches!” just come across as Bruce Campbell Lite.
Artwise, pencilers Bagenda and Bazaldua do a good job of storytelling, with pacing as frenetic as a Sam Raimi camera racing through a forest (you Evil Dead fans get the reference), and a welcome avoidance of making the characters look like they belong in a cartoon (I’m looking at you, early Army of Darkness comics). And they do know how to draw Campbell’s likeness, so that should keep Ash fans happy.
Bottom line? Despite its Ash-less premise, Evil Dead 2: Beyond Dead by Dawn #1’s fast-paced story and art might just interest Evil Dead fans in giving this miniseries a try. At the very least, it’ll give you something to read while you’re waiting for that Ash vs. Evil Dead TV show to start airing…
Evil Dead 2: Beyond Dead by Dawn #1
Written by Frank Hannah
Art by Barnaby Bagenda and Oscar Bazaldua
Publisher: Space Goat Publishing
32 pages • full-color
On sale June 24, 2015