Way back in December 2018 Skottie Young and Eric Shanower adapted the classic Wizard of Oz and blew the comic book world away. The vivid, creative, and delightful stories were some of the best comics of the decade. It was a series that put Young firmly on my radar even though he had some great work at Marvel already. Young and Shanower followed this series up with The Marvelous Land of Oz in January 2010 and followed those up with four series for the next four years. Marvel had a hit, and now the series is being collected in a smaller digest format with the first two series collected.
This book is a thick 416 pages but is quite easy to read in bed thanks to the smaller size. Something you might notice is how the covers are missing between chapters making the book a seamless reading experience. It actually flows quite nicely with nary a hard stop or awkward transition. Shanower and Young did a fabulous job making this fairy tale come alive for a variety of reasons.
The biggest takeaway is Young’s art which is gorgeous. The world is like a sea with sharp impossible hills and winding creeks at every turn. It has a Dr. Seuss feel to it that makes it all the more magical. The design of the characters is quite fun too and Young does an exceptional job bringing life to tricky less emotive creatures. The flying monkeys are particularly interesting as they’re not that scary, but still have an edge to them. Really everything about the visuals is interesting and a feast for the eyes. Young is backed up by color artist Jean-Francois Beaulieu who smartly subdues the colors a bit. This isn’t a super bright cartoon of positivity. There’s a darker edge to everything and an almost worn look throughout. This is a world that’s lived in. It’s fantastical, but the colors don’t go too far at any one moment.
Another major draw to read this series is how it diverges from the film. Yes, it does follow the film quite closely but it infuses it with new additions. I haven’t read the source material so I’m not actually sure if it’s brand new to this comic or simply scenes left out of the film, but the additions make the narrative quite a different experience. The flying monkeys, in particular, get an interesting backstory that humanizes them, but also adds a new layer of magical fairy tale wonder to the narrative. There are a few other wrinkles, but it’s better to experience those on your own. The Marvelous Land of Oz was brand new to me featuring a story with Scarecrow and Tin Man that plays off the opening story very well.
The only downside to this series, at least the first half, is the familiarity of the story. Shanower and Young hit all the familiar beats making the reading experience a bit expected. It’s safe to say though that we’re all aware of that going into something like this!
This is a series I dabbled with as it came out, but now that it is collected in this fantastic digest-sized format I can’t help but recommend this to everyone. This is a wonderful, magical, and above all else timeless reading experience.
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