by Tommy Kovac and Andy Hirsch
Frank Fizzle’s father is convinced that he is the perfect man to become the next Royal Historian of Oz, official writer of stories set in the world created by L. Frank Baum. Unfortunately, his father Jasper is a terrible writer. The two of them are going broke; Frank struggles to pay the bills while his father taps away at his old-fashioned typewriter. One evening, Jasper comes home with a silver pair of shoes that he swears are the same ones Dorothy used to get back to Kansas from Oz. Frank decides that his father has officially lost it and slams the door; when he opens it a few minutes later to apologize Jasper is gone. Three days later, he returns with proof that the character’s in Baum’s stories are real, but the Ozians aren’t happy that their magic has left Oz and are in hot pursuit. If they can’t get back the things Jasper stole, then they’ll make do by taking that which is most precious to him – his son Frank!
This graphic novel is a lot of fun. For a book about the chaotic meeting of our world and Oz, the panels are very orderly. The characters have simple, cartoonish designs, but they are able to convey so much personality! Slight movement of the eyebrow can express volumes on the face of Glinda or Ozma. The characters don’t always look like their counterparts illustrated in Baum’s original books (art done by the fantastic John R. Neill) but I loved several of the redesigns. Hirsch’s Patchwork Girl, for example, is radically different – I would argue an improvement Neill’s Patchwork Girl, since this version does a better job of capturing the wild streak that so animates the living rag doll. All the major characters make an appearance – Dorothy, Ozma, Glinda, the Scarecrow, Tin Woodsman, Cowardly Lion, the Wizard, and even a flying monkey.
But what I really liked about this new Oz story was the strength of the new characters. Frank and his father Jasper have a strong relationship that really binds this story together. Frank may not understand his father’s obsession with Oz, but he still loves him (even though he makes their lives very difficult) and does his best to care for him. It’s quite a role reversal; this kid (Frank looks to be in his late teens/early twenties) is the mature one who goes to work every day and comes home, while his father is the one spending his days in a fantasyland. They both have to grow up, albeit in different ways, and their twin journeys are a lot of fun to watch. Read? I’m never sure which word is more appropriate for comics, because you’re really doing a bit of both, right?
4 out of 5 stars
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