"The Evil of Oz" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Written by Ryan Fuller
Illustrated by Sanjana Baijnath
2015, 108 Pages
Graphic novel released on April 7th, 2015
Remember the creepy movie sequel to The Wizard of Oz called Return to Oz that came out back in 1985? Sure, it was unsettling and not really for kids, but it wasn't a straight out horror story. The Evil of Oz sets out to correct that, as writer Ryan Fuller and artist Sanjana Baijnath tell young Dorothy Gale's story as she returns to Oz with an ax and a grudge.
The comic opens with cops investigating a horrific murder scene. Dorothy stands in her house covered in blood. She seems to know who's responsible for the deaths of her aunt and uncle and she needs to click her ruby slippers together to find the killer. She heads back to Oz, armed with the murder weapon (an ax) to hack her way through Oz, beginning with Munchkinland and going all the way to the Emerald City.
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While this all sounds pretty awesome, The Evil of Oz is light on the details. This is the case for the entire book. We don't really know what happened to Dorothy's aunt and uncle or why she thinks someone from Oz is responsible. We later learn that the ax belongs to the Tin Man, but why her friend would want to murder her loved ones is anyone's guess, not to mention why Dorothy is so sure that the folks in Oz are to blame.
The creative team's interpretation of the Tin Man, Lion, and Scarecrow are great. They're a demented shell of the bright and shiny version we're used to. The gifts they received from the Wizard have backfired. For example, the Tin Man was given a heart filled with cancer that spread through his system. This deformed him, turning him into a twisted monster, eating hearts of the innocent to stay alive. It's absolutely terrifying, and Sanjana Baijnath brings this to life in glorious detail. His design for each of the characters is top notch and really cements this as a horror book.
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Baijnath also delivers some nice flashback shots, showing images of happier times in a very kid-friendly style. These are interspersed during the climactic final battle and serve as a nice juxtaposition to the horrors that surround this land now.
The Evil of Oz is a satisfyingly dark reinterpretation of the events in L. Frank Baum's original story. It makes you look at that tale with new eyes, wondering what twists and secrets lie in the Wizard's gifts. Some of the aspects of the comic could have been fleshed out a bit more to provide a more well-rounded arc. Plus, the characters occasionally speak in rhyme. This can be rather distracting, especially since it's so inconsistent. It also seems to happen more in the beginning and then just goes away altogether. I'm nitpicking at this really. If you've ever wanted to see Dorothy Gale hack the shit out a bunch of demon munchkins, you're in the right place. Seriously, those things were terrifying without the horror version. Imagine what this creative team cooked up.
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