Zenescope takes us back to Oz one last time (Oz: Reign of the Witch Queen #1)

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One of the things Zenescope is known best for is they have a variety of series that are modern day versions of various classic and fairy tale stories, most notably their Grimm and Oz lines. So, when I heard that Oz: Reign of the Witch Queen was supposed to be a very good jumping on point for Oz, I decided to check it out.

Before I get into the review, I do want to say that one of the early impressions I had about these books was that they had done a lot of cheesecake redesigns for the characters. In fact, when you search for “Zenescope Grimm” on Google, one of the first images that comes up is this: 

I am not judging whether that is a good or bad thing. Sex sells, and I am not going to fault any comic company for doing what most other businesses do. But it does amuse me that people freak out when we see Spider-Woman is a sexy pose. But when it’s sexy Dorothy Gale or sexy Red Riding Hood, it seems to slip though the radar.


Oz: Reign of the Witch Queen #1

Story by: Joe Brusha & Jeff Massey
Story by: Jeff Massey & Kristin Massey
Art by: Antonio Bifulco
Cover by: Sean Chen
Colored by: Hedwin Zaldivar
Lettered by: Ghost Glyph Studios

Published by: Zenescope
Cover Price: $3.99

Warning! This review contains quite a few spoilers!

This issue starts with a quick but thorough recap of earlier Oz series. Glinda the good witch died bringing Dorothy back to Oz to face off against a powerful warrior named Warlord. Warlord resurrected a powerful evil witch named Zamura to help him conquer Oz. In the Warlord of Oz series, Dorothy finds out that Zamura is her mother. Both sides are gearing up for a final battle to decide the fate of Oz.

In this issue, Dorothy and her allies are headed to the Emerald City. In the heart of the Emerald City is a Fount of Life that is the source of all of Oz’s magic. Dorothy talks with the King of Oz about their roles in Oz. The issue ends with The King appearing to have been murdered by Dorothy.

One thing I have to give Zenescope a lot of credit for is that they did make this comic very accessible for new readers. There were definitely some things I didn’t quite understand entirely (like what Smynth’s betrayal was exactly), but they never detracted from my enjoyment of the issue. On a whole, they gave a lot of information while keeping things moving quickly.

They also did a great job selling the scope of the story. From Dorothy being greeted as a hero to the shots of Zamura draining life from prisoners, it's real clear who the good guys and who the bad guys are. Usually, I like a bit more ambiguity in characters, but in a big fairy tale story, those clear lines work real well.

The Wizard of Oz is such a classic movie and book series, that it could have been a real train wreck to modernize it. But, I think Zenescope did an excellent job here. This isn't the Oz I grew up with, but it's definitely recognizable enough where I never felt like it was a bastardization. That's a tricky balance, and this issue did it brilliantly.

I also loved the cliffhanger ending. The issue covered a lot of ground, so by the end I wasn’t quite sure where the series was going, but that image of Dorothy covered in the king’s blood immediately piqued my interest. I complain a lot about comics that seem to just end without any real fanfare. That was not the case here. I doubt that Dorothy killed him, but I immediately knew I would be buying the next issue just to see what comes next.

The art on this book was damn near flawless. Like I said earlier, this story was big in scope, and the art fit that perfectly. Oz looked fantastic. I was really drawn into the world. I especially loved the redesigns of Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, and Toto (who is the massive white wolf on the cover).

I will admit that I am not 100% sure how I feel about cheesecake Dorothy, but I knew what I was getting in to here. It's basically a trademark of the Grimm comics. So if I complained about that too much, it would be a bit like complaining that Superman flies too much.

This was a very good comic. It captured the magic of Oz perfectly and should appeal to new readers and Oz fans alike.  I believe this is the end of Zenescope's Oz stories (the email Zenescope sent me with my preview copy says "Reign of the Witch Queen completes the ongoing OZ saga that began back in 2013"). While you can enjoy this issue without having to go back and buy the earlier issues, I am probably going to go back and pick up the rest. same with other Grimm series. I enjoyed this issue that much.


Title: Oz: Reign of the Witch Queen #1
Written By: Joe Brusha, Jeff Massey, & Kristin Massey
Art By: Antonio Bifulco
Company: Zenescope
Price: $3.99
Pros:
  • A terrific modernization of Oz
  • Does a great job catching up new readers.
  • The art is gorgeous
  • One of the best cliffhangers I've seen in a long time.
Cons:
  • Cheesecake Dorothy was a little much at times.
Is it worth your $3.99? Yes!  I enjoy superhero stories, but there are plenty of genres that can be well served by comics.   Zenescope's version of Oz is real compelling and entertaining.  You are doing yourself a huge disservice if you skip this series.
Grade: 
4.5 / 5.0