The Marvelous Land of Oz Review
Story by: L.Frank Baum
Written by: Eric Shanower
Art by: Skottie Young
Cover by: Skottie Young
Rating: 7 (of 10)
In the wake of success created by The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, an 8 issue limited series adapted from L. Frank Baum’s original story, Marvel comics was soon to release another installment. Here the adventures of Dorothy are left behind, exploring the state of the Land of Oz following the events of the first book. The world remains just as large as it was, though little is further revealed. What is advanced, however, is the conceptual framework that bonds the Land of Oz together. Magic is presented in the context of older fairy tales, thwarting the somewhat anticlimactic resolution at the conclusion of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and the denizens appropriately represent their world’s apparent diversity.
Curious, then, are the sundry details that arise, many of which were overlooked in the first volume due to the novelty of the read. Much of the dialogue continues to invoke the wisdom of the age, its stereotypes and particulars, which becomes very distracting. It makes me wonder if Shanower’s love for Baum is too strong, because the language certainly reflects a narrative era long since departed. This calls into question exactly what an “adaptation” is. Were I to strip down a Tolkien work and pair the dialogue with pictures, what artistically have I accomplished exactly? Since The Marvelous Land of Oz is more noteworthy for its highly developed concept than its dialogue, why should dialogue be an issue? I believe that it’s problematic to have a book populated with characters whose personalities are borne of multiplicity. When Tip, the protagonist, is hardly different from his fellow companions, the read becomes laborious. Sometimes I found myself simply looking at Skottie Young’s artwork, imagining what could have been written in each frame. Then again, that’s just me.
I enjoyed Skottie Young’s artwork more in The Marvelous Land of Oz than its predecessor. The concept of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is far too iconic. Young’s work would only be in vogue because of lasting conceptions of Fleming’s 1939 film adaptation that force the reader to bring certain imagery to the table. His work would be a “fresh” take on Baum’s fantasy, but far too familiar. The Marvelous Land of Oz is a unique opportunity for Young to flex his creative muscles and give extra life to what many would have imagined to be a solitary universe. The creative feel he offers in this volume is far more esoteric and sinister, capturing the old world folktale atmosphere. The cool temperatures and warping of panels to simulate vintage photography adds a tangible dimension to the comic, all the while preserving the kid-friendly accessibility.
I admit I was more impressed with Shanower and Young’s previous entry, but this cannot be helped. I was far more familiar with the original material, while this is far more different than what I had come to expect Oz to be. The philosophical bent this volume shares is odd, to say the least, and is more than likely a byproduct of the notions going about at the turn of the 20th century, where skepticism and humanism were on the rise at the expense of more traditional ontology. I enjoyed The Marvelous Land of Oz in my own way, and I expect you will as well.