Review by Frank Plowright
The Emerald City of Oz begins by picking at the plots of previous stories, the first of the Oz series to really do so beyond following up on characters. In Ozma of Oz the Nome King lost his magic belt to Dorothy Gale, and half his power along with it, and because he’s not a forgiving type, it’s really rankled. The problem he has is that in order to retrieve it, he has to cross the deadly desert, a task L. Frank Baum has continued to use to confound his characters. As travelling on the surface is too deadly, and flying above it not an option, it’s suggested he could tunnel underneath it.
As far as Dorothy is concerned, Baum ensures her story participation by throwing in one of the random plot devices he resorts to frequently. Auntie Em and Uncle Henry can no longer keep the Kansas farm running and bankruptcy beckons, so everyone is transported to Oz where Dorothy is made a princess. A nice touch is that neither Aunt nor Uncle have previously believed Dorothy’s stories about Oz. Their transformation is seen on the sample art along with mention of something of later consequence, and they’re used by Baum, and by extension adapter Eric Shanower, as the means of catching up with Oz’s by now considerable cast. This includes new introductions such as Miss Cuttencliff who makes paper dolls that come to life as two-dimensional cut-outs, but are likely to be blown away by the slightest breeze.
While all that occurs, under the orders of the Nome King, General Guph is gradually acquiring allies among the previously seen vain, fractious and greedy types like the Growleywogs to invade Oz. Can these types be trusted, though?
It seems as if Skottie Young is given more characters to draw with every new Oz assignment, yet everyone retains their visual charm and his new introductions are thoughtfully designed. Every page is a delight on the eye, packed with life and drawn to captivate.
Previous stories have dealt with the main plot before an extended epilogue sequence, but here it’s Dorothy’s wanderings that take precedence, the Nome King only making his move deep into the final chapter. Shanower prolongs the tension well, and even adults will wonder how he’s going to have the space to include any battle, but they and astute younger readers will have long figured how the Nome King and his forces are defeated. There’s a joy in seeing it, though.
Baum intended to conclude the visits to Oz with this story, but a voracious public refused to accept his ending and three years later he returned the cast in The Patchwork Girl of Oz. Sadly, though, Shanower and Young conclude their adaptations here. All six of them are combined for the Oz Omnibus, while this is paired with Road to Oz in a smaller paperback edition.