Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Little Adventures in Oz vol. 1 by Eric Shanower

Quite a few people are, or should be, aware of the Marvel adaptations of L. Frank Baum's classic Oz stories - they're adapted by Eric Shanower and illustrated by Skottie Young. But did you know that Eric Shanower wrote his own Oz stories? Not only straight prose, but also a really fun series of graphic novel stories. They were put in one beautiful complete volume, now sadly out of print and quite expensive, assuming you can find one at all, but they were also issued in two smaller volumes which are still available and definitely worth it if you're an Oz fan.

This first volume opens with a colorful map of Oz and then two four delightful stories. The first, "The Enchanted Apples of Oz", features Dorothy and the Scarecrow. They're out on a walk when they suddenly encounter an enchanted castle. Within the castle they find Valynn, Guardian of the Enchanted Apples, which protect the enchantment of Oz. But a wicked sorcerer is out to steal the apples - what can he want them for? Oz is in great danger and it will take an unexpected ally to save the country from losing all its magic. In "The Ice King", a seemingly friendly deputation comes from the titular king, but they want Dorothy to marry the king! When she refuses, the Ice King's deputation shows their true colors and treacherously attack Ozma. Is the magic of Glinda the Good and the Wizard strong enough to save her? Along the way, they meet a new friend - Flicker the Candle-Maker, who's under an unfortunate curse. The stories end with a cover gallery, character studies, and four pages of an unfinished story about General Jinjur. There's also a brief, two page history of Oz.

Shanower's stories capture the true flavor of Oz from the emphasis on friendship and kindness to the strange creatures and odd escapades. He doesn't quite have the humor of L. Frank Baum's original works, but all the adventure and magic is there. Of all the continuations of Baum's work, except for Ruth Plumly Thompson of course, his titles are the best. The art is fresh and accessible, with bright colors, interesting backgrounds, and clearly identifiable characters. My only quibble is giving Ozma red hair, which breaks with canon.

Verdict: It's worth taking a little extra time and trouble to track these down. The Shanower and Young adaptations of the original works have revived interest in these classic and delightful stories and kids will be eager to read continuations in graphic novel form.

ISBN: 9781600105890; Published 2010 by IDW; From my personal library

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