Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Comic Review: Oz comic series

Taking place about a decade after Oz: Straw & Sorcery, the regular Oz series from Caliber Comics opens up with a trio from Earth winding up in the Nome King-dominated Oz. Kevin, Peter, Mary, along with their dog Max, get whisked away via a strange book they got a yard sale, and awaken in the middle of Munchkin Country, where some nasty Munchkins chase after them. Kevin, Peter, and Max manage to fend off the small advesaries, but Mary gets seperated from them. She is rescued by Jack Pumpkinhead, who then leads her to the Freedom Fighters camp. Kevin and Peter meanwhile find their way to an abandonned Munchkin village and learn what has happened to Oz over the last few years. They then go to the Scarecrow's large barn, and accidently free him from the enchantment Mombi placed on him by removing his amulet. Having no idea what has happened to him, Scarecrow decides to take his new friends to his old friend the Tin Man, who is of course still evil. They free him though, and they journey to the Lion's realm. The Nome King sensing a change in the wind sends Mombi and the Ladies Auxiliary Brigade(General Jinjur's old troop?)after the Freedom Fighters. Tik-Tok sacrifices himself to let the others get away, which leaves Wogglebug and their one flying monkey commrade, Nameless, flying off to seek the help of the Monkey King. After a fierce tussel with Tin Man, the other heroes free Lion, and decide to head to the Emerald City to confront the Nome King directly. They're overwhelmed by endless nomes, and Peter is captured, but relays the good news of Three Kings release and the new hope to Princess Ozma in the dungeon. After run-ins with Bane wolves and giant spiders, the remaining Freedom Fighters carry on, but then duke it out with the Three Kings as they think they are still evil. Kevin and Mary reunite, and all the fighters put aside their disbeliefs to join Ozma in freeing Oz once and for all. Ozma and Wogglebug go to the four kingdoms of Oz to rally them together to rise against the Nome King, but realize that the Quadling country has seceded. Peter meanwhile manages to escape, and frees a grown-up Dorothy of her enchantment. Amber Ombi leads the Freedom Fighters on a final assault on the Emerald City. Mombi makes a hasty exit by making the Ozians believe they've been sent to Earth. The Nome King then pulls his final trump card with the Magical Cap to control the flying monkeys. The Freedom Fighters succeed in freeing them, but the Nome King manages to escape. The Wizard then reappears, and sends the trio from Earth back home.

This leads into the next story arc which the new artist Tim Holtrop takes over. In it, an army of goblins have resurfaced in the Quadling lands, and met with an alliance with the Quadlings. The goblin king, Kaylor, has his shaman Krakatos resurrect both of the Wicked Witches into a composite incarnation called the Wickedest Witch. Ozma's court then seeks to restablish its reign, and sends Lion, Scraps, Jack, and Jinjur to start a treaty with the Quadlings, which they're unaware of their goblin alliance. Dorothy, Betsy Bobbin, and Trot leave to seek out the fabled Fountain of Youth(which is apparently in Oz)to return themselves to their former ages. They leave with Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Hungry Tiger to Glinda's abandonned castle in the north(North?). The combined Goblin and Quadling forces take over and decimate the Winkie country, and the Lion's animal kingdom. Jinjur and Jack sneak into to the goblin's underground lair to witness the Wickedest Witch killing off Kaylor and his son to become the new Goblin Queen. Jinjur ends up getting captured while Jack is pushed off a cliff with his head getting splattered.

After twenty issues, the series was moved to Arrow Comics, and retitled Dark Oz. There was a special with the Daemonstorm crossover going with most of the other Caliber titles, but I'll cover that in the Oz spinoffs reviews. I'll say that the comic keeps very close to the idea of the original Baum books, and that Bill Bryan's artwork really helped bring it to life. Tim Holtrop's artwork was fine, but seemed to redesign the characters a little too much, as it was evident from his Jack Kirby-influences. Stu Kerry & Ralph Griffith's writing help bring a new maturer level of adventure to Oz on par with Lord Of The Rings. The original 20-issue run is currently available in trade paperbacks from Transfuzion Publishing.

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