In Review: Oz: Heart of Magic #5

An epic conclusion to an epic journey.

The covers: There are a magical nine covers to find for this concluding chapter. Drew Edward Johnson and Grostieta have created an intense A cover focusing on Dorothy the fighter. Standing on the Yellow Brick Road, she’s twisted her body to pull a long sword from its sheath. She’s got several bleeding wounds from a blade, though her opponent cannot be seen. She looks incredible, as does the setting, and the colors are perfect. The B is by Sheldon Goh and Hedwin Zaldivar. This features Dorothy leaping at the Wizard who is in the foreground. The hero has a sword raised in her right hand to smite her foe. To her right Ann Soforth has joined her to take down the antagonist. Great sense of motion on this with some spectacular colors. The C is the “Good Girl” cover which was created by Laura Braga and Ceci de la Cruz. Dorothy is walking up the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City in the distance. She turns to face the reader with most of her body in profile. She is beautiful, the background perfect, and the colors gorgeous with greens dominating. The Villains reign on the D cover by Geebo Vigonte and Ivan Nunes. The Mad Wizard sits in a stone throne holding a staff that sports a brilliant shard of green crystal. To his right stands Ann, looking amazing. Excellent illustration with brilliant colors, especially on their clothing radiant. There are also five Exclusive covers, but I couldn’t find any images of them online. They include the New York Comic Con Exclusives (limited to 500/100 copies), featuring artwork by Mike Krome and colors by Ula Mos, the London MCM Exclusive (250), the VIP Exclusive (100), and the Zenescope Exclusive (50) by Elias Chatzoudis. Good luck, collectors! Overall grades: All A 

The story: This is one heck of a finale plotted out by Dave Franchini and Terry Kavanagh, with Kavanagh writing the issue. In Obsidian City, capital city of the lost Southern Lands of Oz, the heroes have discovered the corpse of Dorothy who gave her life to bring Glinda and Adraste back from the dead. Thorne lifts her up and says, “…She’s still alive. I can smell her blood pumping. Barely.” Glinda and Adraste combine their reborn magiks to restore their friend, but it’s not enough. Adding to their plight is the castle is beginning to crumble around them. Toto puts a paw on his best friend’s wrist, cluing the others in that all of them, even the youngest, can give their queen some of their life force. Meanwhile, Ozma is still trapped in the Gem of Zamora which is pumping up the Mad Wizard’s abilities. The fiend is about to destroy Bartleby when he receives news from Ann Soforth that something they’ve predicted has occurred. This is when the story goes epic, and I do not use that word lightly. There is a payoff on page 6 that has been building since the first issue. This is followed by a monstrous climatic battle that goes for sixteen pages. That’s right, sixteen — Franchini and Kavanagh are not fooling around with this battle. It gets all the time it deserves! This is a massive fight that involves a cast of thousands. Every page of this conflict has something fantastic, with some of my favorite moments on Pages 15, 18 (NOOOOO!), 19, 21, and 23. I was happy to see a fallen character get a proper conclusion on 25. The final page has some rebuilding shown, while another threat rises. I was truly surprised by the scope of this finale and how well the battle went with its many surprises. This was a killer conclusions. Overall grade: A+

The art: I was also very impressed with this book’s artwork by Marcelo Mueller because of the incredible number of characters he creates. Starting with an outstanding panel showing the crumbling castle during a thunderstorm, which is tilted more than ninety degrees to to make it extra sinister, Mueller then transitions to the interior showing the heroes’ reactions to finding Dorothy’s corpse in the foreground, which beckons to the reader for aid. Fantastic! The energy exploding at the top of the second page is powerful. I love how this is only a taste of such power, as the top of Page 3 increases its strength. Ozma’s introduction on the next page is outstanding with her panic palpable. I love the layout of the middle two panels on the page to show where the former queen of Oz is being held. The power seeping out of the Mad Wizard is extreme, making it seem he could explode at any moment. The wall and the number of characters at the top of Page 6 are only a taste of what’s to come because the battle that follows is amazing. It’s impressive the number of details Mueller puts into this conflict — great settings, excellent action, and an unprecedented number of characters. The (practically) double-paged splash on 10 and 11 would be a budget buster for a film! The heroes in action are fierce and look fantastic, such as at the top of 14. The power of the first panel on 15 is awesome and this is followed by an excellent/creepy/sick/twisted panel on the next page. The magik on 22 is spectacular. The third panel on 23 is an outstanding payoff for the series– I needed this and I got it! The book ends with a new character and he looks great! I would love to see Mueller create more adventures in Oz. Overall grade: A

The colors: Putting a lot of punch into the artwork are the book’s colors by Leonardo Paciarotti. Recently returned to life, Glinda and Adraste have the brightest colors of any characters on the first three pages. The violets and whites employed for life giving energy are excellent. The transition from green to red on Page 4 is a terrific way to show a character’s state. The Emerald City is a stand out whenever it appears due to its radiant greens. Colors are an essential element of the climatic battle so the reader can identify the characters. I really like that when the antagonists are winning the colors go orange — a harsh tone. Green dominates when the heroes win, returning to the classic color associated with Oz. The yellows in the final three panels of the book create power and fear neatly in one package. Overall grade: A

The letters: Arancia Studio’s Maurizio Clausi creates this issue’s scene settings and character identifiers (the same font), yells, dialogue, sounds, whispered text, the Nome King’s dialogue, dragon speech, Ozma’s unique dialogue, and the final character’s words. I love the scene settings and character identifiers which are done in a large fairy tale font that uses lower case letters to make it look timeless. There are several yells and screams in different fonts so the reader can easily gauge their volume. The dialogue is a little small, but Clausi has a lot — an awful lot — of dialogue to pack into many panels. The sounds are excellent, with CHOMP! being brutal. It’s the unique character fonts for dialogue that really impress, making each speaker stand out and visually show how they are not human. Overall grade: A

The final line: An epic conclusion to an epic journey. The final battle does not disappoint. The heroes are spectacular, the villains heinous, the visuals awesome, the colors beautiful, and the letters excellent. This is a series for Zenescope to be proud of and one that demands all contributors return for a sequel. Highest possible recommendation. 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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