Eric Shanower and Skottie Young have been turning out sublime kid-oriented comic book adaptations of L. Frank Baum’s Oz books with great success and well-deserved critical acclaim. “Road to Oz” #1 begins their latest limited series adaptation, and while not their strongest start, it still has all the talent and promise of their previous efforts.
The material Shanower has to work with for the opening of “Road to Oz” is a bit repetitive and slow moving compared to other beginnings, but he does what he can in moving the characters at least to a drastically new place by the end of the book. Unfortunately, the very last panels are extremely abrupt and it’s neither a natural place to leave off nor a good hook to continue reading the next issue. Fortunately, Shanower and Young can rely on their stellar reputation with these adaptations to do the heavy lifting in getting readers to the next installment. That said, Shanower needs to pick it up a bit in the second issue if he wants this series to be as powerful as those that have come before.
Since most of this first story takes place in Kansas, there aren’t as many opportunities for Young to cut loose visually, except in character design, which he takes full advantage of. Young’s design for The Shaggy-Man, the foxes, and even the more traditional looks of Dorothy, Toto and Button-Bright, are flat out fantastic. Jean-Francois Beaulieu continues to deliver perfect colors for Young’s work, and toward the end some inspired work with shadows really lends a depth to Young’s pages that’s unexpected and inspired.
“Road to Oz” #1 isn’t the most compelling opening for Shanower and Young’s Oz adaptations but that may be due, at least in part, to remaining faithful to the material. Regardless, there’s no doubt, even with a slow start, that this limited series will be of the same high-quality and attention to detail as those that have come before. Shanower and Young are a gift to comics, and their interest in kid-friendly material — all too rare in today’s comics landscape — is something for which we should all be grateful.