Vincent Desjardins's Reviews > Oz: The Marvelous Land of Oz

Oz by Eric Shanower
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Oct 16, 11

bookshelves: children-s-and-young-adult, fantasy-children, graphic-novels-comics
Read from October 06 to 13, 2011

As a child I read all fourteen of L. Frank Baum's Oz books. My hours spent with those books are some of my happiest childhood memories. Part of the delight I took in reading those books were in the wonderful illustrations by W.W. Denslow in the first volume and John R. Neil in the rest of the series.

These new graphic novel editions from Marvel comics are wonderfully adapted by Eric Shanower. He's managed to retain much of Baum's original dialogue and he's done a great job of capturing the flavor of the original stories. My problem with these books is the artistic interpretations of Skottie Young. Overall, Young is an amazing designer, his backgrounds and compositions are beautiful, but when it comes to the character designs, in my opinion, he was not the ideal choice for this task. His human characters have the look of certain Manga/Anime characters and share what I feel are some of those style's worst traits. For example, when a character opens its mouth, it appears as if you're staring into the grand canyon, the mouth becomes this large gaping hole. When a character is shouting, the size of the mouth becomes so exaggerated that it appears to take up more than half the face. I find it really unappealing. An even bigger problem I have is Young's design for the Scarecrow. I'll put it plainly - I hate it. The Scarecrow's mouth, which we are told more than once is painted on, looks, in Young's version like it is stitched on. And the way the jagged stitching has been drawn, it makes the scarecrow look like he has a mouth that has been sewn shut. The overall effect is really kind of frightening. I also don't like the Scarecrow's eyes. Yes, according to the description, one eye was supposed to have been painted slightly larger than the other, but Young has exaggerated the difference to such a great degree, that it looks like the Scarecrow has a giant hole on one side of his head. And because Young has not given the Scarecrow any indication of a nose, I felt at times that the Scarecrow barely had anything that registered as a recognizable face.

I wish that my budget was such that I could afford the hardcover editions of these books. Aside from some of the character designs, there is a lot that is really beautiful in these books. The coloring by Jean-Francois Beaulieu is sumptuous and beautifully captures the various moods of the story. Unfortunately, the paperback versions of these books, for some inexplicable reason, are reduced in size to a measly 6 x 9 inches. This size reduction causes much of the coloring to become dark and muddy, not to mention the loss of detail in the line work. There are several frames throughout both this book and its predecessor "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," where I literally could not tell what was going on in the frame. I don't know who at Marvel decided to make the paperback versions smaller than the hardcover, but it was an unwise choice. I have glanced through the larger sized hardcover editions and the difference is striking.

Even with my reservations about the art, I do recommend these books, hopefully they'll introduce a whole new audience to the rest of Baum's Oz books. And, if like me, you don't have time to re-read the originals, these are the next best thing. If you have the money, I'd recommend you invest in the hardcover editions. But, if like me, you can't afford the hardcover price, be prepared to read these smaller paperbacks under a bright light so you can make out the detail and see through the darkened colors.
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