In Review: Grimm Fairy Tales presents Oz: Reign of the Witch Queen #2

Far from Baum's original story, but with so much modern fantasy, it can't help but entertain.

The covers: The A cover is by Ken Lashley and Brett Smith and has Dorothy sitting upon the Throne of the Emerald City, looking at a crown with some attitude. Before her, in the shadows, is the dead body of King Samuel, whom she must have killed to get his crown. Right? This Dorothy is much older than how the character has been shown and much more elongated. I like the curtain work and the folds on her dress, but this doesn’t look like the lead character and the coloring is too faded to pop out. The B cover is the illustration that’s been used in a lot of ads to promote this book. Sean Chen and Ivan Nunes have a joyous Zamora holding a dead body atop a castle as her monkeys come flying in. Great emotion on Z’s face and the coloring is really well done. Dorothy looks her most regal, while still showing her youth, in the C cover by Sabine Rich. Against the backdrop of the Emerald City, her majesty is walking towards readers. Very princess-y and very much in the style of a fairy tale. This was the image I chose to go with this review. The D cover is the exact opposite of the one that precedes it, as it has the Warlord in a full profile watching as the Emerald City goes up in flames. This frontpiece by Jason Metcalf and Wes Hartman is strong in imagery and colors, and its content unexpected. There’s also a Secret Retailer Incentive cover by Billy Tucci, with colors by Ula Mos. I couldn’t find an image of this anywhere, so good luck finding it! The final Variant, the F, is limited to 500 copies and it’s the Dallas Fan Expo cover by Ed Benes, with colors by Mos. Against a sandy background, an attractive Dorothy Gale is wearing a cowboy hat, a long sleeved deep blue top (pulled up and tied off) that sports “I (heart) DALLAS,” and short cut-offs that have been unbuttoned and rolled down. Yee-ha! Overall grades: A C, B A, C A+, D B+, F A

The story: Bartleby the Scarecrow has walked into King Samuel’s throne room to discover Dorothy standing over the dead, blood covered body of the king. Naturally, Dot says she didn’t do it and that leads the Scarecrow to make some chilling pronouncements: “The tribes were already at odds. Unity was always elusive. Although he was a good man, Samuel never truly inspired the good peoples of Oz. But this? Panic will ensue.” He apologizes for what he must do, which is call the palace guards. As he begins to walk away, Dorothy puts her hand over the ruby staff, which glows strongly, and a large FZAAAAM occurs off panel. Meanwhile, at Abraxas Academy, “Under New Management”, the evil witch Zamora looks into her magic orb and says, “That’s my girl.” She’s interrupted in her gazing by the Warlord’s arrival, stating that the last of the dissenters have been killed. He then reports on what his assessment of the troops are. After learning of what army she has, she grabs a bottle and says, “Gather the troops. It’s time to hand out a few promotions.” What she does with the contents of that bottle are impressive. The story by Joe Brusha and Jeff Massey, with a script by Massey and Kristin Massey, has each side preparing for the upcoming battle, with the protagonists finding that they may have to work with people who once opposed them. Additionally, Dorothy may not be the sweet innocent character that others, and readers, thought she was, after seeing her on Page 18 and reading the witch’s final comments on the last page. I enjoyed reading his. Overall grade: A 

The art: Antonio Bifulco is using some thin linework on this book, and I like it. This pays off with the wrinkles in the Scarecrow’s face and the constant tufts of straw that are projecting from his person and falling to the floor. Dorothy is beautiful, and not just because of what she’s wearing.  He gets some really nice emotion out of her, with five different states of the future queen shown on Pages 2 and 3. The bottom of Page 2 shows the good focus he brings to detail, such as the hair on the dead king and the lace around Dorothy’s top. Page five has an impressive transformation scene that makes those characters seem more in line with Baum’s world, than the how they first began. Page 7 contains only one box of text to summarize what’s occurring, but it features seven panels that show the villainous hordes rampaging through Oz. Pages 12 and 13 show two very different funeral processions. I like how this was split and what Bifulco accomplishes with them. Thorne and his people look great on every page and Dorothy’s scene with Smynth is an excellently handled visual sequence. I’m really liking Bifulco’s work on this book. Overall grade: A 

The colors: With such fine details in the art, the colors have to match what’s been done, and Hedwin Zaldivar certainly does. The greens of the Emerald City are really well done, especially with the reflections and shine in the green floors. Zaldivar does an excellent job in coloring people’s faces, such as on Dorothy (see the bottom of Page 2) and Thorne in the issue’s final act. Equally impressive is the job done on Zamora, who’s giving Susan Oliver a run for her money for prettiest in green. I loved the orange background on Page 5 and all the green work done on 18. Zaldivar is making a strong showing on this book. Overall grade: A+

The letters: The only flaw of the book, and it’s a minor one, could be the tiny dialogue boxes done for almost every character by Ghost Glyph Studios. Looking at the panels provided, they’re not given much space for so much dialogue, but the art should have been manipulated to allow more room. Case in point, the third panel on Page 2, the first on 3, and the spell cast on 5. That said, the rest of their work looks terrific, with some sensational original fonts for some of the characters. I’m always pleased when a book does this, and they’ve pleased me greatly. If only they could have made their dialogue bigger. Overall grade: B 

The final line: A highly enjoyable read. Far from Baum’s original story, but with so much modern fantasy, it can’t help but entertain. I’ll follow this forever with these creators involved. Overall grade: A

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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