After finishing Eric Shanower and Skottie Young's graphic novel adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz last year, I was hoping they'd adapt other L.After finishing Eric Shanower and Skottie Young's graphic novel adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz last year, I was hoping they'd adapt other L. Frank Baum novels. We're all most familiar with the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion of course, but there are other bizarre Oz friends and enemies that would shine with the right treatment.
The next book in the series is out in a trade paperback that collects all eight issues of the ongoing comic: The Marvelous Land of Oz. The 200 page book is printed on high quality paper, and is a fun journey back to Oz for either new readers or those who have already read Baum's original books.
I've read the first seven or eight of the Oz books, but it's been a while, so some of the stories and characters tend to run together. Reading this adaptation was a good reminder of the fun vision that Baum had of that magical world, and also overcomes some of the weaknesses that his writing has.
The Marvelous Land of Oz starts off in the Land of the Gillikins, somewhere north of the Emerald City. There we meet a young boy Tippetarius, known simply as Tip. He lives with an old witch Mombi, and is basically her servant. One day to frighten her, he builds a large wooden man and gives him a pumpkin for a head. After he sprinkles some Powder of Life on the man, he comes to life, and Tip names him Jack Pumpkinhead. Soon Jack and Tip are on the run from Mombi, are joined by a living Sawhorse, and head to the Emerald City to get some advice by King Scarecrow.
Like The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, this entry in the series feels more episodic than most novels do. It's also the tale of a group of companions traveling from place to place in Oz, having adventures, and then escaping. In addition to the new characters mentioned, there's a large insect called the Highly Magnified Wogglebug, and a flying sofa called the Gump. The only repeated characters from Wonderful Wizard of Oz are the Scarecrow and Tin Man--there's no Dororthy or Lion in this particular adventure.
Some of the story points will be familiar to people who remember 1985's Return to Oz, which was kind of a mash-up of the books Marvelous Land of Oz and Road to Oz. Others, like a "girl rebellion" overthrowing the Scarecrow haven't been adapted before. Shanower explains some of the language and situations that might come across as misogynistic in a Foreword--that Baum was a proponent of female empowerment, as evidenced by his many heroines. That said, the dismissal of General Jinjur and her "Girl Army" will probably leave a bad taste in many readers' mouths.
The artwork by Skottie Young is as good--if not better--than it was in Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Because this story is less familiar than the first, it's not jarring to see his version of Tip, or Mombi, or other characters. He's taken the descriptions and classic illustrations by Denslow and adapted them--made them more colorful and lively than anything we've seen before. Assisted by colorist Jean-Francois Beaulieu, the pages are vibrant and lively and pull your eyes along, even when Baum's sometimes clunky dialogue doesn't.
This is a fun book for lovers of fantasy of all ages. If your only experience with the land "Over the Rainbow" is the 1939 movie, pick up the first graphic novel and this one, and become a citizen of Oz.