Don’t worry – not every comic review I do here is going to be about Oz. I offer this as contrast to last week’s steampunk version to show what can happen when somebody does a riff on Oz that’s rooted in fealty. I should mention that I’m also a stickler for Alice’s adventures, another childhood fave of mine, because every time that gets interpreted, people keep smooshing together Wonderland and Looking-Glass World, both of which are two distinct realities – one based on playing cards, the other on chess. I’m sure there’s fun to be had imagining an entire universe of parallel realities based on classic board games combined with psychedelics, but anyway. This comic crossover comes close, because it imagines that all childhood fantasy worlds are real places in alternate dimensions.
This book’s Dorothy and Alice are young women, out late at night on what seems to be the modern streets of Chicago, when they are attacked by Wheelers, which, judging by their reactions, are not a normal sight in this reality. Dorothy cuts one till it bleeds, while Alice, a musician, clobbers another with her guitar case. They are saved by a mysterious old man who shoots the creatures in the head with guns – turns out this is Oscar, the former Wizard of Oz, now a college professor (“I’ve exchanged one form of charlatanism for another, he says). He explains that the fabric of reality is tearing, and as proof, shows them a Woggle-bug, an insect native to Oz. Resurrecting Jack Pumpkinhead by combining a freshly carved face with a headless scarecrow body, he learns that these tears are quite likely the work of a new, more powerful witch.
But to get back to Oz, they must go through Wonderland. And how will they do that?
The nerdgasm in me was initially teased by references to things like Orks and the Shaggy Man, which only a fan of the books would know – then fully satisfied when they busted out the Silver Shoes, NOT ruby slippers. This is an alternate take on Oz, but everything in it makes sense as a tonally appropriate decision; there’s even an explanation as to why they’re in the modern world and not living happily ever after in Oz as the books had it.
So yes, writers Ben Avery and Casey Heying, I trust you to take this in a good direction, and as a reader am in your hands. Heying’s art isn’t spectacular, but nor is it distractingly terrible – it conveys the point well enough, and I’d personally rather have something that tries for realism and falls short than the sort of bad imitation of manga that seemed to be all the rage for a while.
The only mystery is how the hell you say the title of this thing. “Woz-underland”? “Oz-Wonderland”? Small price to pay.
Whatever you call it, this comic comes out tomorrow and is available on Comixology.