In Review: Oz: Reign of the Witch Queen #3

Plans are formed in this strong reimagining of Baum's classic characters.

The covers: There are five ways for you collect your Oz book this month. The A cover is by Richard Ortiz and Ylenia Di Napoli. It shows the Warlord fighting Dorothy. I like the size of the characters, with Dorothy being the smaller of the pair. Her sword is also incredibly tiny in comparison to the villain’s blade, which is longer than his upper body! If you think about it, his hands would pass his knees if he held them at his side, based on this drawing. The Warlord is getting juiced up by the Dark One on the B cover, which is credited to Marat Mychaels and Sean Ellery. It’s a decent shot of the two uber baddies of this series, but I prefer to have some of the heroes on the covers. The C is by Cris Delara and it features the woman in the purple reflective bikini outfit (I told you there were a lot of characters in this book–so many that they’re not named in every issue). This is the “Good Girl” cover for this issue and it’s good: there’s skin, but it’s not over-the-top. The character is shown casting a spell and even novices to the series, like me, understand she’s not one to be trifled with. Alfredo Reyes and Stephen Schafer do the D cover and it, too, is a “Good Girl” cover, though the female character is not the sole person in the image. This is set within a tavern where the series narrator Rho’Kat and another of his ilk are looking upon a busty redhead who’s just entered. The woman looks completely out of place in this environment, but when has that mattered? Every element is well illustrated and the colors are very bright. The final cover is a San Diego Comic-Con blank sketch cover which is pure white, save the logo and credits at the top of the book. This is a nice way to get signatures of the series’ creators or put down some big bucks to have an artist sketch out an original piece. Overall grades: A B-, B C+, C A-, D A-, and Sketch B

The story: The issue begins in exciting fashion with Dorothy casting an emerald spell to zap the Warlord. This comes out of left field because that’s not how the story ended in the last issue. That’s because Rho’Kat has gone too far forward with his story, as he’s gotten potted, and backs things up to show how this issue’s events lead to this confrontation. Dorothy and her allies have gathered to discuss how to defeat the Warlord and the evil witch Zamora. The Warlord won’t be a pushover, and his origin is given to show how strong he is. This conversation goes on until Page 11 before it is decided that another ally must be found, and he’ll be familiar to readers of this series. Their plan is then decided upon, steps are taken, and the issue ends as it began, with one major change, and it’s not for the better for our heroes. The story is by Joe Brusha and Jeff Massey, and written by Jeff and Kristin Massey. The focus this issue is on characters, not battles. Spending so much time having characters hash out what to do is an excellent way to define each character for the reader and I really enjoyed the first eleven pages. Even the panels where there’s no dialogue, only silence in the room, tipped off a trait of one or more individual. I appreciated the backstory on the Warlord, since I’m new to this saga, and Page 15 was also very helpful to my understanding of character motivation. The cliffhanger is strong, with the final dialogue of the book being much more polite than what I would have said. Overall grade: A

The art: The visuals on this book by Antonio Bifulco are fantastic. This is the type of work that any book would be envious to have. On the first page it’s easy to see that Bifulco is going to put a lot of detail into what he’s doing: the first panel doesn’t really need the background trees or birds to complete the scene, but by adding in these details it makes the scene more real. I also like the way he creates his spellcasting, as shown at the bottom of the same page. Rather than going for the smooth blast of energy, like from a classic Doctor Strange tale, Bifulco adds some terrific black lines that give the spell an ominous tone, which is where Dorothy’s allies think her abilities may take her. This is a super touch. The Warlord’s origin is deviantly epic looking. The forming of battle plans could have ended up being a series of talking heads panels, but Bifulco inserts just enough subtle gesturing and facial reactions into the scene to make every motion important to the dialogue. The confrontation at the end has some excellent action sequences, as well as some comedy with ‘Kat’s exit. This book looks really good. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Fantasy tales must be more difficult to color than the standard super hero fare. Environments must pop with bright colors to suggest an otherworldliness and villains have to come in several different odd shades to show their malevolence. Hedwin Zaldivar is doing an excellent job on this book. The opening panel has some good orange and yellow work done for a sunset and the greens in the final panel on the page are gorgeous. Green is also the background color used for the heroes as they make their plans. It’s a good color to make any individual stand out, and Zaldivar adjusts his shading of the panels to draw the reader’s eye into the image, such as on Page 6. The violets used on 9 for the flashback are beautiful and when red is employed for characters’ yells in the battle anyone can tell they are strong. Excellent work. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Scene settings, yells, sounds, dialogue, Scarecrow speak, Smynth speech, Tin Man’s talking, Crumb’s dialogue, Warlord utterances, screams, whispers, and the “To Be Continued” are crafted by Ghost Glyph Studios. Hands down, Zenescope comics is doing the best job with their books when it comes to letterers because of all the unique fonts that are used when certain characters speak. Ghost Glyph Studios demonstrate this with all the different races’ speech. In doing so it differentiates each race in Oz and it gives the characters another dimension into what type of individual they are; just looking at the Tin Man’s speech, one can tell he’s robotic, or the Warlord is inhuman. Sensational! Overall grade: A+

The final line: Plans are formed in this strong reimagining of Baum’s classic characters. Super story and excellent visuals, even if I couldn’t tell you the names of some characters. 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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