My only familiarity with the world of Oz is through the films. As such, I can’t speak to how great an adaptation “Ozma of Oz” may or may not be in relation to the statement “Based on Adventures Crafted by L. Frank Baum” in the front of this book, but I can say that, standing on its own, “Ozma of Oz” is a hell of an enjoyable comic book.
In this issue, Ozma and Dorothy, along with their crew – Cowardly Lion, Hungry Tiger, The Woodsman, Tik-Tok, Scarecrow, Billina, and Ozma’s army (some 27 officers) – try to rescue the Queen of Ev and her ten children from the Nome King. The Nome King has turned the queen and her children into objects in his palace. He offers our heroes the chance to save them by guessing which objects they might be and saying the word “Ev” while touching an object, a conceit familiar to anyone familiar with the film “Return To Oz”. The story works equally as well here thanks in large part to Skottie Young’s exceptionally creative artwork.
Eric Shanower and Young work well together and in addition to delivering dialogue that feels right and a well-paced story, Shanower also manages to get in a few laughs. His Hungry Tiger is hilariously dramatic. However, Young’s exuberant expressive work is what captivates the reader. In addition to sublime character design across the board that imbues each character with such personality and soul without a word being said, Young also gets to stretch his wings in the Nome King’s treasure trove of a palace. Young restrains himself nicely, so that not every object that gets touched is an awesome pink sheep or similar, but he adds just enough whimsy that you can’t wait to see what the next panel may bring.
Young’s art is beautifully complemented by Jean-Francois Beaulieu’s colors, which are a perfect tonal match for the story and for Young’s style. The colors are not happy and bright and basic, instead they are layered and complex, while still being playful and not overly dark. It’s a fine balance that suits the book well overall.
I’ve often mourned the fact that Young works almost entirely on all-ages books these days as it leaves me reading his work less frequently than I’d like. However, seeing what he’s doing here, you can’t really blame him for the choice, as he’s clearly enjoying every minute of it. There’s a freedom and excitement in his work on the Oz books that’s thoroughly contagious in its wonderment.