In Review: Oz: Heart of Magic #4

Dorothy's dark journey is wonderful.

The covers: A sweet six covers to collect for the penultimate issue of this series. A monstrous Mad Wizard casts a spell to take down Dorothy, but the cursed blue skinned hero stands strong before him with a long sword held low in her right hand. The Wizard is a wonderful fright on this A cover by Geebo Vigonte and Ivan Nunes, and Dorothy is powerful as she looks at the reader. There’s a more direct energy on the B cover from Igor Vitorino and Grostieta. On the steps of a crumbling structure that looks classic Greek, Dorothy leaps down at Ann Soforth. The rightful ruler of Oz wields a sword in one hand, while her enemy swings her fists. Both characters are great in their poses and the setting is excellent. The colors are cool with Dorothy in blues, matching some of the broken background, and Soforth is resplendent in green. Anthony Spay and David Ocampo have the villainous Soforth solo on their C cover. She stands among some sickly emerald smoke that writhes about her as it rises. Her arms are open in challenge and her eyes are ablaze in emerald. Excellent frontpiece to showcase this antagonist. The D by Martin Coccolo and Hedwin Zaldivar also features a baddie — the Mad Wizard. He cackles in glee as he holds a miniaturized version of the Emerald City in his right hand. The detail on the city is excellent and the Wizard, including the energy rippling off of him, is outstanding. Excellent colors on this, too, with the radiant greens sweet. The VIP ComicFest exclusives by Dawn McTeigue and Sanju Nivangune are limited to 250 and 100 copies. I could only find an image of the larger edition online. A brunette in a blue bikini kneels in the surf of a beach at twilight. She touches the electric pink rose in her hair, while her other hand holds a drink in coconut shell. Palm trees have yellow lights wrapped around them and yellow crystals glow warmly planted in the sand. I believe this is Belle because of a necklace on the woman that contain a B. This is a sensational cover. I have no idea what the changes are in the smaller edition, so good luck, collectors! Overall grades: A A, B A, C B+, D A-, and VIP ComicFest A+

The story: When last we saw our heroes, two massive dragons had appeared to fry them. Dave Franchini and Terry Kavanagh, with Kavanagh writing, have named the red dragon Rak, and it’s spewing flame, and the green one Quox, who’s ordering the red one what to do. Only Dorothy is keeping the protagonists safe with an emerald shield, but the strength of Rak is too much and she succumbs to its fury. As Rak dives in to deliver a killing blast, one hero says something that changes everything. This was a funny and completely wonderful resolution to avoiding death. It’s an obvious solution to fighting the dragons and it was brilliant! Soon the heroes have a very unique form of transportation to get them closer to the Emerald City. Meanwhile, back at the EC, things aren’t going well for Bartleby the Scarecrow, who’s been locked behind bars by Dorothy and Tessa. To his horror he learns who’s actually captured him and who their real identities are. Page 7 has Bartleby at his lowest point and it’s moving. I was not prepared for the final face on the page; could this be a hint of regret that will lead to a change in the final issue? The reactions to a setting on 10 are great. The attacks on 14 are a good surprise and the characters’ reactions to them on 15 strengthens their valor. The location on 16 is familiar to those who love art or are fans of David Bowie’s films. I was pleased to see that one character avoids the fighting to get a moment alone on 20 and things do not go as planned. This level of frustration is believable. I was really surprised by the penultimate page with the villains’ goal finally revealed. And I was even more shocked by the final page which shows one character has fallen for a pair of noble causes, but can this be permanent? There is a lot happening in this issue, but nothing seems rushed. This is an epic story whose pace never lets up. Overall grade: A

The art: Marcelo Mueller starts things off grandly with a full-paged splash of the two dragons unleashing hell on the heroes. They are gorgeous monstrosities. I like the amount of energy that’s being repulsed by Dorothy’s shield on the second page and the final panel shows that even she has her limits. The last image on Page 3 is beautiful, being both horrible and incredibly funny. Matched with the one word of dialogue it is unquestionably a masterful illustration. The point of view in the second panel on the next page is really great because it has the heroes looking at the dragons and those creatures look gigantic. The chaos occurring just outside of the Emerald City is nicely shown, with plenty of energy and smoke. The reveal at the top of 6 is great and I love Bartleby’s reaction to it in the third panel, which is great, but it would have looked much better had it not been given that horrible computer blur — it makes it look as if the Scarecrow is moving as fast as the Flash, and he’s not. The fourth panel on 7 is a wonderful image of despair, but it’s the final panel on the page — that has no dialogue — that has me wondering if one person’s heart isn’t in this affair entirely. Dorothy and Thorne’s close-ups on 9 are wonderful. The group reaction panel that ends the next page is a clever way to show several characters at once. The final panel on 13 has some excellent shadow work from Mueller as two characters discover something. The fall and rescue on 15 is neat and the setting that follows looks familiar, but is well done. I love the creatures attacking on 18 and 19, but I wish that a few of those panels hadn’t been in silhouette; it would have been more satisfying to see the details at this moment. The anger and pain on 21 and 22 are great. The reveal on 23 is a WOW! moment, while the final page will definitely elicit gasps. This book looks good. Overall grade: A

The colors: I grew up reading the Oz books and in addition to the characters and their actions, the colors that were used to describe the settings and the people still resound in my mind. Leonardo Paciarotti does a terrific job in coloring this issue, making it dreamy even in the most tense situations. Case if point, the dragons are beautiful in red and green. They are unquestionably monsters, but their colors are beautiful. The orange flame spat upon the heroes is powerful. Dorothy continues to catch the eye whenever she appears, cursed to be in deep blues that would make the residents of Talok VIII proud. The room Bartleby is held in has a sick green for the walls to make the reader feel ill at what’s being done to him. The green and white energy emanating from the ground at “Renovation” Site 14B is fantastic. Paciarotti does a great job with the final panel on 13. The last locale where the heroes find themselves trapped is colored gray and blue to make the actions visible, rather than drowned in the dark setting. Smart. The violets on the final page are magical. This is excellent work. Overall grade: A

The letters: Maurizio Clausi of Arancia Studio creates this issue’s dragon speech, narration, sounds, Nome speech, dialogue, character identifies from the narrator, and yells. I am always impressed by the letterers at Zenescope that create unique fonts for characters’ speech, which further separates them from the normal speakers of the book. The dragons and nome characters have that and their dialogue adds immensely to their characters. The narration is differed from the dialogue, which is a quality I admire in letterers. The sounds are epic, which is fitting given the situations and horrors encountered. The character identifiers look awesome in a whimsical style of capital and lower case letters that are a perfect match for the character giving this information. The yells come in a variety of fonts and sizes so the reader knows how strong each exclamation is. Overall grade: A

The final line: Dorothy’s dark journey is wonderful. She struggles to return to the Emerald City with the help of her friends to reclaim the throne, but it’s not an easy task. The story is epic and the visuals are magical and monstrous. This grown up Oz adventure is one trip definitely worth taking. I really like this series and am sad it concludes in the next issue. Overall grade: A

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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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