None of the books I have read this week really struck my fancy. They weren’t terrible by any stretch of the imagination, but none of them had that stand-out quality that I look for. So, instead of forcing a book-of-the-week recomendation, I am going to take this time to tell you about a little-known series that certainly deserves your $5, The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West!
I stumbled across The Legend of Oz in a Previews magazine two years ago. That first cover image of Gale pulling the stetson down over her face struck a chord, and it was instantly placed on my pull list. And the rest, they say, is history.
The Legend of Oz, written by Tony Hutchinson with art by Allison Borges, started as a six issue mini-series that retold the story of Dorothy as a western. There are a few changes that come with this shift in motif, of course. Here, she goes by her last name Gale, and, instead of the ruby slippers, she has ruby pistols and spurs. Instead of Toto, her trusty dog, she has Toto, her trusty steed.
As in all good retellings, almost all the characters you know are represented in The Legend of Oz — and they will be both very different and very familiar at the same time. The best changes of all are the Tin Man and Scarecrow: the Tin Man is the equivalent of a Marshall in Oz, and Scarecrow is now a mysterious young woman with some interesting powers. Oh, and while the Cowardly Lion is still cowardly, now he is more of a cross-dressing, non-anthropomorphized lion. Don’t think too hard about that one. It works.
The mini-series does a great job of retelling the classic story in a new and exciting light. I loved that Dorthy wasn’t this poor girl lost in the wilderness. Like the original story, Dorthy is just trying to get home, but, unlike the original story, she isn’t afraid to shoot anyone who may get in her way! The confrontation between her and the Wicked Witch of the West is rather high up there on the badass scale. Did I mention the Witch’s broom also doubles a rifle that fires evil magic bullets? Because it does.
What has really sold this world for me is that they have now gone beyond the “Wizard of Oz” that we (or at least I) know. The six issue mini has birthed an ongoing series, currently on its seventh issue. Gale has gone missing after the events of the mini, and the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, and the Lion are on the run from Jingur — excuse me, General Jingur and her minions. Hutchinson is delving deeper into the world of Oz and showing us some of the creatures that, had you only seen the classic film, you’ve never heard of. A particularly menacing group we are introduced to are the Wheelers. I remember these guys from that weird “Return to Oz” movie, but they sure weren’t like this. At least, I don’t think they had civil war era gatling guns attached to their wheels!
We also get to meet Jack Pumpkinhead. He is the dashing rogue of this series, and he is awesome. His back story has its roots in Oz royal history, and his character design is just fantastic. The way Hutchinson and later Eric Esquivel voices him makes him instantly likeable. If this series births any spinoffs, I really hope he gets one.
The Legend of Oz is published by a small company named Big Dog Ink. I had never heard of them before this, and I’ll be honest, I haven’t checked out any of their other offerings. But if any are as good as Oz, they should be in good shape. I found their booth at last year’s NYCC, where Tony Hutchinson signed my #1 of the new Oz ongoing. They were all really awesome and so happy to meet fans of the book!
So if you can, try to track down this series. The first issue is available on Comixology for $1.99, but the first trade is not widely available anymore. You can still get it from the BDI store for $17.99, but you can likely find it if you want to do a little more digging in the Amazon Marketplace or eBay. This is a fantastic series, and I really do hope you all give it a shot.