Before any snap judgments get made in regards to their forthcoming miniseries, the writers behind Dynamite Entertainmen’s Xena/Army of Darkness crossover want to point out that the book's full title helps give their potential audience an idea of what kind of adventure lies within the comics pages.
You see, all together the series is called " Xena/Army of Darkness: What, Again?" And the indignant, tongue-in-cheek tone isn't solely for the pages of issue#1, which hits this week courtesy of Brandon Jerwa & Elliott Serrano and artist Miguel Montenegro.
"Come on, man. It’s ‘Army Of Darkness Vs. Xena’ Volume Two. If 'what, again' isn’t the least offensive thing you’re thinking when you put this in your pile of books for the week, you might want to get out of the house. Immediately!" co-writer Brandon Jerwa told CBR.
“Xena/Army of Darkness: What, Again?” is the follow-up to last spring's John Laymen-penned miniseries featuring the same characters, whose subtitle, for those keeping score, was "Why Not?"
"I proposed that the full title be ‘What, Again?’ because we all know sequels suck,’" added co-writer Elliott Serrano. "When Brandon asked if I would be interested in working on the sequel, I was a wee bit apprehensive at first because John Layman is a really tough act to follow."
And the act the pair (along with previous series artist Miguel Montenegro) will be following took an "everything but the kitchen sink" approach to the fan favorite elements of both Sam Raimi-created franchises, including the appearance of a mini Ash doppelganger, plenty of lascivious double entendre, and a case of mistaken identity after Ash dropped into Xena's world where King of Thieves Autolycus was none too popular. Interestingly, both characters were portrayed on screen by Bruce Campbell.
This time around, the same characters meet, but find the shoe (or sandle as the case may be) on the other foot. "After seeing Ash spend all that time in Xena’s era in the first series, it only seemed logical to me that we should ‘flip the coin’ for the second and send Xena, Gabrielle and Autolycus into the future," Serrano explained. "Ash’s actions in the past cause a chain reaction that reaches into the present, and as we’ll discover later on, in the future. The story is structured in a way where we’re going for a sort of symmetry with the first mini."
"And you can bet your sweet bippy we’re setting up the ending of this one to make way for a trilogy. Or should I say thrilogy?" added Jerwa.
As for how this story will fit into the comics world already set by Dynamite's ongoing "Army of Darkness" series, Serrano said the direct connection would be slight, but the books would share much in the ways fans of the franchise expect. "I view the mini as an apocryphal story, much like the old DC/Marvel crossovers,” the writer explained. “I’m a total 'Evil Dead' geek and have been reading James Kuhoric’s take on Ash and the 'Evil Dead' mythos since the [ongoing] title debuted. That being said, we didn’t talk to him as we were putting this together, but we did try to not contradict anything already established in the main series. In fact, in issue #1 of our mini, there is a nod to the ‘Shop Till You Drop Dead’ story arc where the S-Mart is overrun by Deadites and no one but Ash is surprised by the fact. It’s as if an S-Mart being taken over by ultimate evil has become cliché in the AoD universe."
"As far as tone, I viewed the first series as Ash in an episode of 'Xena: Warrior Princess' whereas our series is Xena in an 'Army of Darkness' movie," Serrano continued, noting that as the series moved along, readers could expect more involvement from the Deadites and other Detroit denizens to be popping up, although another case of confused identity may pop up again thanks to Ash and Autolycus' similar chins. "I don’t want to give away too much, but I’ll leave it with three words: Baby. Daddy. Drama."
That mixture of goofs and gristle has made up the cornerstone of Dynamite's "AoD" universe, although finding new ways to ratchet up the humor of the book is a high priority for Jerwa and Serrano. “For me, I kept telling Brandon that Ash needed to get dumber as the series progressed, as homage to the idea that Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell stated as such when explaining how the same character could keep making the same mistakes over and over again," said Serrano.
"Sadly, I also got dumber as this series progressed, so this was totally lost on me," added Jerwa.
If the writing team sounds at ease busting each other's chops, it's because the pair started out as convention buddies before kick-starting a creative partnership. Introduced by writer Dan Jolley, Jerwa and Serrano launched efforts to work together on comics in tandem with their solo pursuits, which for Jerwa included writing Dynamite’s “Battlestar Galactica” and for Serrano, an online comics editorial.
"To tell the truth, it all happened somewhat simultaneously, so I wouldn’t call it parlaying my journalistic writing into comics writing," said Serrano. "None of it would have happened were it not for Brandon, though. And Dan Jolley, who not only introduced me to Brandon but mentored me as a writer. And Devin Grayson who was a real supportive influence as well. And the Baby Jesus, with his little bald head and his swaddlin’ cloth."
"I’m a firm believer in sharing the love, and after meeting Elliott at Dragon Con a few years back, I knew we’d be friends for life and probably end up working on something together," Jerwa agreed. "I can usually pick those folks out fairly early; I have a really good instinct for the people I allow into my life. Getting Elliott on this job means that I’ve officially managed to get more work for other people than I have for myself this year, which also means I’m a complete rube. It’s time to start calling in those favors, I guess."
Regardless of their career management capabilities, Jerwa and Serrano are plunging ahead with "Xena/Army of Darkness: What, Again?," and if their titling, joking and ribbing are any indication, readers know exactly what to expect. "For me, it’s the idea that you can get pretty crazy telling a story and do some pretty ridiculous things along the way, as long as you don’t lose the internal logic of the story. Raimi’s films and television series get pretty goofy, and yet they never lose sight of the story that they’re trying to tell and they never insult the audience. Oh, and they’ve got to be fun," concluded Serrano.
"Honestly, I’m pretty sure this is our Eisner bid," said Jerwa. "Don’t wait for the trade, kids. Don’t wait until it’s cool to own a copy. Get it now. And buy three of each cover. Oh, and if this fails, I’ll totally keep working, but Elliott will be thrown out of comics. Completely."