Ozma of Oz #1

Written by Eric Shanower
Based on the novel by L. Frank Baum
Art by Skottie Young
32 pages, color
Published by Marvel

Ozma of Oz was one of my favorite books when I was growing up. I’m not sure where our copy of the book came from, but I must have read it fifty or more times. The third Oz novel, it’s actually only the second one to feature Dorothy, who after a sea voyage comes awry ends up journeying to Oz’s neighboring country of Ev, as well as meeting her old friends again and embarking on a brand-new adventure. Quite frankly? I think it blows The Wonderful Wizard of Oz out of the water.

I think part of what makes Ozma of Oz stand out for me so much is that right from the start, L. Frank Baum has upped the level of crazy, different things. Sure, the original book had the Munchkins, a talking Scarecrow, and (left out of the movie) a land of porcelain people. But everything was still more or less recognizable as things from our own world, just tweaked slightly different. Here, in a matter of pages we’re seeing trees that grow lunch baskets and dinner pails, as well as the dreaded Wheelers who have wheels instead of hands and feet. It’s fun and different, and unlike Dorothy’s trip to Oz, here she doesn’t have any locals offering up advice immediately upon landing. Ozma of Oz continues that trend the whole way through the book, and each new creation and idea is bigger than the one before. It’s a big jump forward just in terms of stronger plotting and creativity for Baum, and I think it’s the book that shows he was more than just a flash in the pan.

In being adapted into a comic book, Eric Shanower paces out the story well for having it be eight issues that all require cliffhangers. Here, Shanower uses Baum’s build-up well; first bring Dorothy and Billina to Ev, then showing us the strange trees as well as a warning about the Wheelers, and finally using the attack of the Wheelers as the cliffhanger for the first issue. The whole issue flows smoothly in pacing, and as someone who could probably recite entire passages of Ozma of Oz back from memory, it feels like Shanower’s managed to fit everything into the comic with great ease. That’s not an easy task for an adaptation from one form of media into another, but Shanower makes it feel like a piece of cake.

Skottie Young’s art continues to look beautifully inventive and energetic. From the very first page, with the panicked and bug-eyed looks of the passengers as the ship goes into a storm, to the top-hat wearing, green-faced Wheelers, everyone jumps off the page toward the reader and looks fantastic. Dorothy herself looks on point for how Baum had described her; young, sweet, but determined. And Billina’s big eyes? A riot. It’s some of the smaller details in Ozma of Oz #1 that stood out at me as being especially nice, though. I love the misshapen crescent moon hovering up in the sky, looking almost like a person’s face, for instance, or the huge letters carved into the sand on the beach. Young’s art is quirky and fun, just like the Oz books themselves.

People who have seen the movie Return to Oz starring Fairuza Balk will recognize a lot of Ozma of Oz, which the script-writers lifted from liberally. It’s no small wonder they wanted to use so many elements of Ozma of Oz; it’s a great book, and so far Shanower and Young are three-for-three on creating a great adaptation. I hope this one does as well as the previous two in terms of sales, because I’ve yet to read any of the Oz books that came next. Comic adaptations by Shanower and Young of Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, The Road to Oz, and beyond? Why yes, please. Sign me up. If Shanower and Young work on a comic together, you know it’s going to be excellent. In the meanwhile, make sure to buy the first two collections. You’re in for a treat.

Purchase Links (Vol. 1): Amazon.com | Powell’s Books
Purchase Links (Vol. 2): Amazon.com | Powell’s Books

2 comments to Ozma of Oz #1

  • […] Ozma of Oz #1 I hope this one does as well as the previous two in terms of sales, because I’ve yet to read any of the Oz books that came next. Comic adaptations by Shanower and Young of Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, The Road to Oz, and beyond? Why yes, please. Sign me up. If Shanower and Young work on a comic together, you know it’s going to be excellent. In the meanwhile, make sure to buy the first two collections. You’re in for a treat. […]

  • […] no secret that one of my favorite childhood novels was Ozma of Oz, and that I thought Eric Shanower and Skottie Young’s adaptation of the book was fantastic. Even better, having only read the first three Oz novels as a child, I’ve been delighted that […]