In Review: Oz: Reign of the Witch Queen #4

I'm completely taken with the scale of this series as good fights evil.

The covers: A lucky seven to collect if you’re a completist for this series. The first cover, the A, is by Richard Ortiz and Ylenia Di Napoli. It has Dorothy back-to-back with the Lion, each holding a sword and ready for whatever comes their way. Next to Dorothy is Toto, who’s snarling at their approaching opponents. All three characters are in a forest setting, where danger could come crawling out of any crevice. Good image that shows two of the leads. The coloring, though, is surprisingly washed out. I’ve not seen Di Napoli do such faded work before. If the colors had been brighter this really would have stood out on the shelves. The B is by Harvey Tolibao and Ivan Nunes. This is a wowser of an image showing Zamora (I think) in the center of the illustration holding something in her hands that’s emitting a pale violet glow. Around her are five individuals, whom I’ve never seen before, trying to get at her. Each holds a weapon or is employing some type of magical power. Heck, the guy in the back right looks like the Airbender. This is a cool image, but I have no idea how this relates to the book. The next, the C, is the “good girl” cover and the one I chose to go along with this review. It’s by Paul Green and shows Dorothy Gale with her hair in pigtails, wearing a crop top and Daisy Dukes. She looks at the snowglobe in her hands that contains a farm. She begins to turn to the reader, realizing she’s being watched. Cute, not over-the-top sexy, but still gorgeous. Interior artist Antonio Bifulco penciled the D cover, which is colored by Wes Hartman. This image continues the story begun last issue, as Dorothy tries to keep the Warlord at bay. The angle of the image is good, with the perspective being tweaked to give the villain an eerie feel, Dorothy looks good, and the light effects are spectacular. A good cover. The final cover is on three limited editions sold at the Wizard World Chicago Comic Con. All are drawn by Eric Basaldua and colored by Ula Mos. The first is limited to 500, the second 250, and the third 100. The image is of an attractive brunette barely wearing anything in Chicago Bears colors. She’s got on gloves for the sport and is holding a football in her right hand and she plays with one of her ponytails in her left. I couldn’t find online how each cover varies, often it’s with colors, or lack of top, but what I saw looked good! Overall grades: A B+, B B-, C A+, D B+ and E A, F A, and G A

The story: At Abraxas Academy, the new stronghold of Zamora, the Witch Queen is on a balcony addressing some Felgrau, magical characters who have no place in the Gale’s new world (And these were the characters that appear on the B cover!). Without missing a beat, Zamora says, “And you really expect me to believe this sudden change of heart?” A munchkin replies with an evil grin, “No. Not really. But it did get us an audience with your bad self, and into the walls of Abraxas.” A yell is given and all attack the witch. They’re quickly overwhelmed with the self-proclaimed queen wondering why they chose to sacrifice themselves. “So long as we are here, your lapdog faces Gale alone.” This causes Zamora to explode in laughter. Why? Currently, at the Tufnel Stones, Warlord is easily keeping Dorothy at bay. Try as she might, she cannot defeat him. She’s expecting reinforcements, but they’re fighting their own foes. Jeff Massey and Kristin Massey are the writers of this tale, with he and Joe Brusha conceiving it. There’s a lot of action in this issue, on two fronts, and I like that. I always enjoy when one battle’s outcome will influence another, and that’s exactly what’s going on in this installment. When one group can finally assist the other, they do so with one member, a classic Oz character, making the ultimate sacrifice, with another pair’s fate seeming in question. Since this is a fantasy, magic exists, so there is a possibility for these characters’ return at a later date, but I don’t think that’s going to happen in this six issue series. Being new to these characters and this series, even I was taken aback by the turn of events of the final three pages — Okay, I didn’t see that coming! It’s an excellent turn of events, and there are still two issues to go! A fun, entertaining read. Overall grade: A 

The art: This issue continues to impress with fantastic visuals from Antonio Bifulco. The opening three pages deal with the conflict between the witch and her monkeys and the Felgrau. The characters look terrific, with the munchkin giving a slick twisted grin to the bored Zamora. The top of 3 shows an smart combination of five panels illustrating the action. I liked that Bifulco put an electrical line to separate the panels. Panels six and seven are terrific point of view shots from the villain and the protagonist’s points of view. When the witch realizes that these people have sacrificed themselves for no good reason, her reaction at the bottom of 3 is fanastic! The evil is leaping right out of the page! Dorothy’s battle with the Warlord is also spectacular, with even more energy being thrown about. Without spoiling the other battle, it, too, is good, with Pages 8 and 19 being epic. I was really impressed with the sense of motion that Bifulco brings to that first page. The heavy action involves Dorothy, and those final three pages are beauties. The close-up on Dorothy is fantastic, and that final page perfect. Bifulco knows how to make a book look good. Overall grade: A

The colors: Equally outstanding is the coloring done by Hedwin Zaldivar. When I hear about Oz I expect the colors to be as magical as the land. Zaldivar delivers the goods flawlessly. The opening page has nothing especially magical happening as Zamora addresses the crowd, but the sunlight, her skin, the bright costumes, and the pink castle propel the reader into this fantastic realm along with the art. When magic is tossed about it’s spectacular; there’s no other way to describe it! I especially like the reflection in Zamora’s face when she realizes all was for naught by the heroes. I really like how Zaldivar provides depth to the characters with how their skin is colored. Also impressive are Pages 21 and 22, with the red and orange increasing the mood. Overall grade: A

The letters: Ghost Glyph Studios provides scene settings, dialogue, Munchkin speak, yells, laughter, screams, sounds, Tin’s talk, and the “To Be Continued.” I can’t say enough about how perfect is to have characters that aren’t human have their own unique font when they speak; it’s another visual way to show the reader that they’re different and it puts a tone into their speech that words alone cannot capture. There are also a lot of super sounds in this issue, especially when everything goes wrong. Overall grade: A+

The final line: I’m completely taken with the scale of this series as good fights evil, and seems to be in danger of losing. Recommended. 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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