The Marvel Illustrated line spawns its first sequel (or second, if you count “The Odyssey” as a sequel to “The Illiad”), and the best writer/artist adaptation team in the comics biz gets another crack at the wonderful characters of Oz. If you missed “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by Eric Shanower and Skottie Young, you missed the best comic book adaptation of a novel in years. Maybe the best ever. By keeping the splendor and spectacle, cutting out the fluff (but keeping the flavor), and by giving the whole series the look of a whimsical storybook come to life, Shanower and Young made Baum’s classic seem fresh and new.
So it’s nice to see them follow it up with a story that’s less familiar, but no less entertaining.
“The Marvelous Land of Oz” #1 tells the story of young Tip, the boy raised by a slightly-powerful, creepy-looking minor sorceress, in the northern region of Oz. Tip crafts a pumpkin-headed trap for his witchy guardian, but when she wants to turn him into a statue to decorate her garden, he flees with his now-sentient jack-o-lantern friend as his companion.
Tip and Jack Pumpkinhead travel south, toward the Emerald City, the land now ruled by the Scarecrow, as recounted in Tip’s one-page retelling of the “Wizard of Oz” plot. (He has to give Jack, and the reader, a little bit of backfill.)
This is territory Shanower himself has adapted before, twenty years ago, but his script is a bit less dense in this version, allowing Skottie Young to carry much of the storytelling burden with his art and, simply put, he does an amazing job. Young has blossomed with these Oz comics, taking his style in a looser, sketchier style that allows for more of a storybook feel. It’s a great-looking comic.
Issue #1 doesn’t end with a cliffhanger, or a dramatic splash page. It seems built for the collected edition, providing the first part of what will be a longer story of adventure. And that’s okay, because a comic like this will surely have a long shelf like in book form. With Young’s art, it may have a chance to become read and enjoyed by more readers than have read Baum’s original. And that’s quite an accomplishment.