Dorothy's adventures in Oz continue in this collection of comics whjch have all the heart and soul of those penned by creator L. Frank Baum. First Dorothy and the Scarecrow encounter a mysterious castle while out on a walk. It turns out that the castle is there to protect the Enchanted Apples of Oz. If those apples are picked, all of the magic of Oz will disappear, but the Wicked Witch of the South intends to get those apples for herself. After that excitement, then the Ice King comes to visit, but his icy heart holds dastardly plans for Dorothy and Ozma--he's looking for a bride!
Little Adventures in Oz, vol. 1
Ages 8-12; Grades 3-6
IDW, January 2010, ISBN 978-1600105890
136 pages, $9.99
In the late 1980s, publisher First Comics released five new Oz stories, written and drawn by comic creator Eric Shanower (probably best known now for his Age of Bronze series for adults). The stories were later collected into one oversized omnibus volume which was published by IDW in 2006. Now, IDW has decided to re-release these stories in a smaller, more up-to-date format in multiple volumes. This new format keeps all of the charm of the original omnibus, losing only the hard-to-shelve size. This change makes them more likely to appeal to children--who are, after all, the intended audience for the Oz tales--and also brings the price down to a budget-friendly level. IDW has done a careful job of reducing the comic art, though, so the text is still easy to read and the artwork does not appear squished.
Shanower's stories are so close to the feel of the Oz stories that I had to go and check to make sure that they weren't simply adaptations of Baum stories. The language, the casual acceptance of magic and fantasy, the dramatic innocence of the Oz stories are all there. These could have flowed from Baum's pen and will be greatly appreciated by readers who long for more Oz stories. Shanower's hyper-realistic art has a dignified old-fashionedness that matches his writing. Fans of John R. Neill's art in the Oz books from the early 1900s will quickly see that Shanower's work is an homage. He keeps the feel of Neill's characters, but updates them just enough to bring them to life.
This new release also contains bonus art, an extra story, and even a brief history of Oz, everything a young fan could want. The problem, of course, lies in appeal. Not as many children read the original Oz stories any more, which is a shame. Hopefully this collection, as well as Shanower and Scottie Young's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz comics from Marvel (also reviewed here at GCFK; now available in a hardback collection), will inspire a new generation of readers. With the popularity of fantasy literature for children, now is the right time for such a revival and creators like Shanower make it easy to see that happening.