Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Danger Girl and the Army of Darkness #1

reviewed by guest contributor Simon Breeze

Many years ago wandering around a comic expo (it was Bristol if I remember correctly) I stumbled across a comic I had never seen before - that comic was called Danger Girl.

As I was flicking through it, vaguely recalling something I had read about it (keep in mind the internet was still in training pants and a 56Kbps dial up connection was top speed, so information on comics came from an old invention in the form of a magazine called Comics International), my friend Jim, who I was at the expo with, looked up from his Iron Man comic and said, 'You'll like that one Si. It is the kinda rubbish you'd normally read!'

And on that recommendation, how could I go wrong? So I bought it, stuck it in my bag along with my 2000AD, Batman and Spider-Man comics and thought nothing more of it.

I got home that night and, like you do (or is it just me?), sat down on the floor of the living room of my house and spread out all my comics, trades and graphic novels and took account of my purchases. I then spent the next hour leafing through them all and trying to figure out what to read first. That was until I picked up the Danger Girl comic: Bingo!

In his own special way Jim was right, Danger Girl was the, 'kinda rubbish' I normally read. Danger Girl was the kind of comic I had always dreamed of owning, and my hardened superhero comic reading friend had always despised! Here was a comic that was a mix of Indiana Jones, James Bond, Tomb Raider, G.I. Joe and all the things I loved as a kid. Not only that it was full of cheeky humour, action and hot girls. Hot action girls with guns and big explosions drawn by J. Scott Campbell, so really-really hot girls beautifully drawn then!

This was a strange point in my life, a turning point too. This was the day that would not only see the start of my torrid love affair with Abbey Chase and the Danger Girls, but also, and oddly, the birth of my desire to create comics too!

Danger Girl for me is a brilliant concept of all of the above. In summary; hot action girls saving the world like only James Bond and Indiana Jones have done so in the past. However, doing it their way, how a girl would do it. Therein is one of the things I like about Danger Girl, yeah-yeah it plays on the fact it is a team of very attractive girls with some cheeky fun from time to time, but they are all 'strong' girls. Think Princess Leia from Star Wars, very pretty, very sexy and you wouldn't want to mess with her either!

As the years went by and the stories racked up I must admit the glory days of Danger Girl were short lived, and that despite a few good ones since, it has never reached the heights of that first run for me. But like that girlfriend that you never get over, you always hope that the next one you meet will measure up and out shine the old, or even just be almost as good! You keep trying though! Through thick and thin, through knock backs and bad dates you cling to the hope that there is a light at the end of that long old tunnel.

Here we are. Several years on from the start of that love affair and through the beauty of a 20Mbps broadband connection and from the comfort of an armchair (don't times change quickly) I find out from a comic blog that there is to be a new Danger Girl adventure, this time the girls are taking on the Army of Darkness!

Army of Darkness... Hmmm...?

I do really like the Evil Dead films, especially the Army of Darkness. However, I have never read any of the tie-in comics. Could this mash-up of titles work? On one hand you have Danger Girl, hot girls being James Bond and Indiana Jones and on the other a time travelling shop assistant with a robot hand, chainsaw and Boomstick (shotgun) fighting the legions of the undead?

The first issue of Danger Girl and the Army of Darkness begins with Abbey Chase, the main character from the Danger Girl title, narrating and giving the reader a little insight to the world of Danger Girl. To be expected, not everyone has read Danger Girl, and so they will need a little introduction.

Introduction over, we join Abbey on an assignment to help out on a rescue mission (I'm skimping on details if you are wondering to try and keep this review as spoiler free as possible) which very quickly goes south and introduces us to the existence of a book called the, 'Necronomicon Ex-Mortis' – the, 'Book of the Dead'. The very same evil, bound in human flesh and written in human blood book of all things nasty and foul from the Evil Dead films. Issue number one of Danger Girl and the Army of Darkness over and in the bag.

That was quick!

Okay, it is not that quick of a read, but that's it, that's the plot of the 22 page first issue, which ends very nicely setting up and leading us comfortably into the story for the next issue.

For me something was missing from this story right from the start. In my mind there is one real common ground that ties the worlds of Danger Girl and the Evil Dead together, and that I can sum up in one word: 'fun'. Sadly, it was missing from this issue. The story is full of action, cool gun fights, explosions and enough cheesy action movie moments to even make John Woo blush. It just wasn't fun enough for me though.

This is not to say that I didn't enjoy the story, or any of the action, in fact some of it is awesome! For me (and I am willing to except that I may be alone in this opinion) Danger Girl worked because it was action and adventure with a real good dose of fun. At some point in the Danger Girl series the fun started to become thin on the ground and the title started to take itself a little too seriously, and as I said earlier, there have been a few Danger Girl comics that recaptured this fun element (Back in Black was one of the few story arcs that managed to do this) for the most part though it has been lacking. Danger Girl and the Army of Darkness is a good example (in my opinion) of this.

Why the big deal? Well you might ask. The big deal is this. As any fan of Ash (the hero from the Evil Dead films) will tell you he is the king of the one liners, and the Army of Darkness film is one of the most fun horror films there is. Add in the cheeky fun action-adventure from Danger Girl and you have possibly in your hands the making of something very special. Sadly, I'm just not seeing it in this first issue. It is all just taking itself a little to seriously.

For another thing. Where are the other Danger Girls? The focus of this issue is purely on Abbey Chase (although some members of the team do pop-up in the background of the odd one or two panels they do very little to nothing) Danger Girl is at its best when the team are all there to play-off off one another.

Where is Ash too? I understand that this is a first issue and I am 100% sure that Ash will show up in issue 2. However, don't give me 22 pages of action, story and only a fraction (a tiny one at that) of the cast!

I think there in lies the 'nub' of my slight negativity towards this first issue. You can't help but get the feeling, right from the start, that it could have been better. Do I feel let down? Yes, somewhat. But as a Danger Girl fan I'm used to riding that roller coaster. Do I have hope - and belief - that this could be the great comic I dreamed it could be? Yes! Without out a doubt!

Okay, bad bits out of the way, now on to the good bits.

Written by Andy Hartnell – Check!
Cover by J. Scott Campbell – Check!
(Awesome) Page art by Chris Bolson – Check!
Action, lots of – Check!
Lots of things going BANG! - Check!
Cheesecake moments – Check!
Weird supernatural stuff – Check!
Some guys hand gets possessed and trying to kill him! - Check!

So there is a short list of some of the brilliant stuff that this comic has used so far to good advantage. I still feel that Danger Girl and the Army of Darkness has the ability to be something very special. Scrub that, I know it can be something very special. Right now it is good comic, it could be a great comic though. I guess it is too early to tell if that will happen. Yet, it has done enough in my eyes to get me reading the next one, and if it stays as good as this first issue, I will not only be sticking with the series until its conclusion I will also be investing in the collected edition when it is published too.

Danger Girl and the Army of Darkness is a good comic. A good read with some fantastic art and moments. It's not a great comic, not yet anyway. I'm going to give Danger Girl and the Army of Darkness a 3.5 chainsaws out of 5 and sit in twitching anticipation of issue 2 arriving on my doorstep. I won't be spoiling anything by saying that Ash is going to be in the next issue for sure and maybe, just maybe, the addition of one of the coolest guys in horror history will inject that missing element for me. Abbey Chase and Ash in the same comic together! This is where things could go from good to great in the space of one page or even a single panel! Mixing these two characters and worlds together was a stroke of genius, and with what I've seen of Danger Girl and the Army of Darkness so far, I am willing to take that gamble that it will be.

Danger Girl and the Army of Darkness #1
Written by Andy Hartnell, art by Chris Bolson, colours by Adriano Lucas, letters by Marshall Dillon
Covers by J. Scott Campbell (main), Paul Renaud (one in ten) and Nick Bradshaw (one in fifteen)
Published by Dynamite Entertainment & IDW

Massive thanks to Simon for another enjoyable review. Don't forget you can check out Simon's writing and art over at his blog and his excellent weekly webcomic - JesseKane.