Review by Frank Plowright
In 1900 L. Frank Baum’s imaginative children’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was such a massive success that a sequel was inevitable. The Marvelous Land of Oz duly arrived in 1904, this time concentrating on the inhabitants of Oz, with Earth girl Dorothy Gale not making a return visit. Considering her strong presence gathered everyone together in the first story, it’s tribute to Baum’s storytelling skills that she’s not missed, and it’s almost halfway before anyone from the previous book other than the Scarecrow puts in an appearance. The human presence this time is a young boy named Tip, an Oz resident, and introduced shortly after is Jack Pumpkinhead and the Saw Horse. They’d all appear in later stories, although not quite as introduced, and they carry much of the plot.
Eric Shanower and Skottie Young’s first Oz adaptation was faithful, but Baum’s plot dragged at the end, so this matches the high standards, but it’s actually better because Baum has upped his game. He provides explanations as to Oz’s various communities, there’s a sharper sense of humour, and the long post-mission ramble is absent.
Most people know the Oz characters from the Wizard of Oz film, where the character designs were based on W. W. Denslow’s original book illustrations. Instead of using those designs, Young re-imagines the characters to create his own visually distinct versions, with Tim Burton’s animation a greater influence. It’s apparent again here, with straggly, mis-shapen creatures with large heads being common, some slightly scary, but never terrifying, and Young makes good use of silhouettes to define them. Despite war being on the agenda, Baum, and by extension Young, are very adroit at avoiding outright conflict.
Shanower’s task is different. Baum had a prodigious imagination, but wasn’t a great writer, so Shanower can take the essence of his intentions and discard the awkward phrasing. Baum does resort to slight repetition, as there is again a lengthy journey to Oz with impediments thrown up along the way, but the threats are different and it’s largely a different bunch of characters involved. The bigger threat is General Jimjum occupying Oz, aided by the malign sorceress Mombi. She’s not a witch, as the Good Witch didn’t allow other witches in her domain. Defeating them again means overcoming considerable problems that have ingeniously conceived solutions, and there’s a good surprise at the end as the crown of Oz is again passed on. All in all this is a more complete and satisfying outing, and Ozma of Oz follows.
All six of Shanower and Young’s Oz adaptations are combined in the hardback Oz Omnibus, or the other alternative is this and their first adaptation together in one slightly smaller sized publication Oz: The Complete Collection.
For some reason Amazon list the individual chapters, but not the combined volume, with the UPC leading to text versions.