While Mike Raicht worked in comics for the better part of the past decade, the former Marvel editor and current freelance writer just recently claimed his first true ongoing gig. Of course, when said gig comes in the form of the Sam Raimi adaptation "Army of Darkness," the reality can jump up like a swarm of Deadites.
"My 12thÂ issue just came out, which surprised me. It went fast," Raicht told CBR. Next month, he takes over as the lone writer for the Dynamite Entertainment title with issue #19, after the departure of longtime co-writer James Kuhoric. "James was getting deeper and deeper into 'Dead Irons' as well as starting up some other books and was not going to have as much time to devote to 'AoD.' So I was told we'd be moving towards my writing solo, which gave me some time to prepare and seed things in James' last arc for my upcoming stuff."
For readers unfamiliar with the current status quo of the AoD Universe, Raicht's tenure on the title with ongoing artist Scott Cohn has been marked by change for the chainsaw-wielding, wise-cracking "Chosen One" called Ash. Over the two-year history of the most recent volume, the chin-tastic warrior wished away his connection to the Book of the Dead known as the Necronomicon, but his everyday status as an S-Mart employee didn't come without a price. "Since the Necronomicon is evil, it gave him that wish. He made Ash normal and non-Chosen Oney, so that it could have free reign in our time," Raicht explained, noting that the changes he and Kuhoric enacted allowed them to bring the horror-powered comedy chops of the film firmly into the present day, building a conflict between Ash, the hellbound embodiments of the seven deadly sins and the Army of Darkness itself.
"Ash reexamined his life and decided to take his role as Chosen One more seriously," Raicht continued. "He traveled back to [his girlfriend from the film] Sheila's time in order to find a way to destroy the book. He was unsuccessful. But while there, he discovered that Sheila was destined to die by his side because of the book. Not wanting that to happen, he left Sheila behind in her time and returned to the present. And most recently in 'Army of Darkness' #14-17, Ash tried to hide out in an abandoned fire station on a mountain. He buried the book and vowed to protect humanity from it. Unfortunately, the book's grave was on the top of a mountain spring the nearby town used for it's water supply. Apparently their water treatment plant was not set up to destroy liquid evil. This turned the entire town into a Deadite horde which brought about the arrival of a character we've named The Hell's Prophet. His sole purpose is to infect Chosen Ones with evil. Did he succeed? You will all have to check out the book to find out."
The potential corruptibility of Ash becomes the series' main focus from issue #18 on. While Raicht has slapstick superheroics on tap for every new issue, the writer noted that at its core "Army of Darkness" had to develop its main hero in order to survive as a strong ongoing comic series. "We felt we needed to remind readers and possibly Ash himself, that he didn't start out as the Chosen One," the writer said. "He was a guy from S-Mart taking a hottie to a cabin in the woods. It took a lot to get him to where he is now. Being a Chosen One and saving the world is great, but it comes with a heavy price."
Indeed, Mike Raicht has major plans for Ash. "While I do love to throw crazy crap at Ash, I'm more of a big picture guy. And we have been talking about two things. One: the legacy of being a Chosen One. To find out more about Chosen One's of the past. To find out what happened to them (hint: none of their lives ended particularly well) and to see if maybe there aren't some other people out in the world like Ash fighting the good fight. People who could help him in his quest to stop the Army of Darkness.
"And two: that this is truly a war between good and evil. War's have battles and skirmishes. Some of the moments that may have seemed like Ash victories were truly triumphs for evil. Could the Army of Darkness have a larger plan? Maybe adjusting their sights a bit on manipulating human history. Would they be just as happy causing a plague? Or killing an important person? Could the domino effect of these things lead to a hell on earth Ash can't prevent? I think those questions, especially in a book filled with Ash fun and craziness, can lead us in a very cool direction. Our plan is to make it a mix of triumph, comedy and tragedy. In no specific order, of course."
The full story of the Chosen One's legacy and the future hanging over Ash kicks into full gear across the summer months, but in the meantime, Raicht will set out to give potential newcomers a fresh jumping on point to familiarize themselves with Ash's current quest. "'Army of Darkness' #19 [drawn by artist Pablo Marcos] deals with a few bottles of tainted water that escaped Mountain Springs," Raicht said. "Ash is desperate to find them and it leads him to a warehouse in West Virginia. A very cluttered, over-filled warehouse. While he's there looking for that one case of water, he meets a girl. And since things are quiet in this town, it gives Ash a moment to glimpse a simpler life. It's my attempt at giving Ash a moment to reflect and enjoy some normalcy. I'm sure it will all end splendidly for him."
In issues #20 and 21, Ash's search for answers into his Chosen One status take him to Europe for an encounter with a full moon howling hairy. "While we will be seeing some classic horror monsters including werewolves, angels, ghosts, demons, aliens, in the next few months, I wouldn't exactly say we're headed in the classic direction with any of them. If Ash teaches us anything, it's to always expect the unexpected," Raicht explained. "I think the character of Ash himself is really what makes all of these situations fresh. Create frightening horror situation, mix in Ash, and stir. His almost Charlie Brown/Peter Parker like knack for getting things wrong, alongside his "come get a taste" demeanor, really gives us the opportunity to do fresh things with old horror tales. Put Ash into any horror movie and the story really just takes off on it's own. That's why he's one of the icons of horror. Even though his existence plays with the genre and it's fundamentals, he is also how a lot of fans imagine they would react in the face of certain doom. Yeah, you may be a legion of zombies, but I'm going to cut your heads off with my chainsaw hand."
Ultimately, those are the feelings Raicht hopes to imbue the book with - wild horror chops melded with larger storytelling concerns. And with the pieces of mythology falling into place from Ash's Chosen One origins to the growing influence of Hell's Prophet, the next step in building the world of "Army of Darkness" comes with a twisted take on the dynamite duos found in so many comic books. "Starting in issue #22,Â Ash and his new mysterious sidekick/partner will begin to search out different supernatural protectors around the world. These 'Protectors' are ancestors of some people who were part of something called the League of Light. This League apparently battled the Army of Darkness back in the day. What happened to them and who will join Ash? You'll have to find out.
"If things go right, this storyline will give Ash and readers, new and old, a whole new cast and crew to get to know and love. I just hope they are up for what we're planning on throwing at them. In my mind, it's going to be the beginning of one hell of a cool ride. I hope readers agree."
Catch Mike Raicht's first solo issue of "Army of Darkness," #19, in comic shops this May, and see a special one-shot issue #18 by writer Eliot Serrano, on sale now.