Published on February 18th, 2016 | by Steven Roman
Review: Evil Dead 2: Beyond Dead by Dawn, Vol. 1
Ahh, Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn. Who could ever forget the 1987 film that truly cemented in the minds of horror fans the character of Ashley “Ash” Williams, the ass-kicking, loudmouthed, mildly dim-witted hero with a chain saw for a right hand, as played by actor Bruce Campbell? And as for “the book” alluded to in that quote, uttered by a demonic force? None other than the Necronomicon Ex Mortis: the dreaded Book of the Dead that unleashes the forces of hell that Ash winds up combating.
And what better way to celebrate my 75th(!) review here at Comics for Sinners than with a graphic novel involving one of my favorite movie franchises?
Which brings us to Evil Dead 2: Beyond Dead by Dawn, Vol. 1, written by Frank Hannah (Batman: Arkham Origins, Action Comics), illustrated by Barnaby Bagenda (Omega Men, Heavy Metal), Oscar Bazaldua (BloodRayne: Prime Cuts), Edgar Salazar, and Carlos Eduardo, and published by Space Goat Publishing. It collects the three-issue SGP miniseries (plus prologue) from 2015 that 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, along with the notes and recordings of the cabin’s owner, Professor Knowby, who’d 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 story, 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 that the comic-publishing rights for Army of Darkness are currently controlled by Dynamite Entertainment). 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, asking readers 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 a bit part in 1989’s C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud; interestingly, her Wikipedia page makes no mention of ED2.) Hannah, though, manages to keep the story moving fast and even comes up with a way to involve Ash in the story anyway, by having Annie create Supernatural Clone Ash from the amputated hand! It’s a plot twist that makes perfect sense—in the Evil Dead universe, that is. Together, Annie and Clone Ash set out to free the souls of her parents, Professor Knowby and his wife, from a demonic overlord and then find a way out of hell.
My one complaint with the writing involves Annie’s use of contemporary verbiage that doesn’t sit well with a comic that, as Evil Dead fans well know, is set immediately following a film that took place in 1987. Annie meets a “Satanic emo gamer virgin”; uses the phrase “So much no”; yells “That’s right, beyotches” at demons. In basic terms, considering the movie is almost thirty years old, ED2 would be considered a “period piece” that is firmly set in its time, especially now when the new, hugely popular Starz television series Ash vs. Evil Dead not only stars a much older Bruce Campbell, but is a direct sequel to ED2 (according to Campbell and Raimi—since they have no control over Army of Darkness, they’ve chosen to ignore its place in Ash continuity). Modern-day turns of phrase might be meant to appeal to today’s readers, but to old-school Ash fans (like me), they appear like bumps in the road. Hannah, however, has definitely reproduced Ash’s braggadocious quality to a T.
As for the art, despite have four artists involved there’s a consistency to the styles that avoids creating any distracting conflicts. Annie’s appearance, from what I can tell, is not based on Berry’s likeness and is more of a generic comic-book heroine, so the importance of making an Evil Dead comic successful lies solely how well they can draw Bruce Campbell—and they succeed, from his self-satisfied smirk to his most confused expression, and without spiraling into the realm of cartoonishness.
As an added selling point, rounding out the back of the book are a gallery of concept drawings and a preview of the next story arc, Evil Dead 2: Cradle of the Damned, in which Annie and Clone Ash start their crusade to hunt down all deadites.
Bottom line? As odd a spin-off idea as this is, Evil Dead 2: Beyond Dead by Dawn, Vol. 1 is definitely something that ED fans should check out. It gets a definite “Groovy” rating.
Evil Dead 2: Beyond Dead by Dawn, Vol. 1
Written by Frank Hannah
Art by Barnaby Bagenda, Oscar Bazaldua, Edgar Salazar, and Carlos Eduardo
Photo cover: Bruce Campbell as Ash Williams (image taken from Evil Dead 2)
Publisher: Space Goat Publishing
96 pages • full-color • trade paperback
Now on sale