Nothing is ever clear when you follow the yellow brick road.
Writer: Dave Franchini
Artwork: Daniel Mainé
Colors: Jorge Cortes
Letters: Taylor Esposito
What They Say:
Skye’s journey takes a new turn as she follows a lead to the land of Oz, but not all is as it seems in the Emerald City. What she finds on her trip down the yellow brick road could have larger ramifications for the entire Grimm Universe.
Content (please note that portions of review may contain spoilers):
As Skye returns from Atlantis and a long quest to retrieve Arthur’s Shield, the Guardian finds the Nexus under siege from flying gorillas and friend Thane in the midst of a fight for his life. While Mathers quips as to the seriousness of the situation, one of these soaring primal menaces quickly remedies her triviality as one would expect with a massive mace swinging toward one’s head. But as she unleashes a flurry of magic to fling the smelly beast away, her feline companion allows claw, blade and headbutt to do his speaking all while filling in the girl as to his concerns for other realms as their battle slowly comes to a violent conclusion. For as she away the situation has only gotten worse, with the Council barely able to maintain a tenuous sense of peace within the lands and the brave warrior is sorely concerned but turns his attention to other matters, such as the shining prize of Skye’s excursion into the chaos. While Thane was the one who sent her on this adventure, even as he surveys the gleaming targe it raises more questions upon closer examination as the lion spots cryptic runes engraved within its inner surface.
Although these letters look familiar he still cannot place their meaning, but there is an old friend who may be able to point Skye in the right direction, but unfortunately it means another journey across the veil to Oz. The person in question is counselor to a former inhabitant of Earth, the one people here know as Queen Dorothy, however as Bartleby begins to assist in the Guardian’s puzzle he cannot but recap their own recent problems but is stopped mid-thought by his lady who interrupts their conversation. As the Gale endeavors in an objectionable attempt at humor she injects herself into the discussion and the group move outside for a pleasant change of atmosphere, whereby the sovereign picks up from the scarecrow’s summary of their recent conflict with a man calling himself the Wizard; the once simple farm girl recalls events of how things went awry after listening to the pleas of an injured boy from a neighboring village, warning of an attack to his home and begging for help but from there things went terribly wrong. She sent soldiers and many of her dearest friends to repel the attack but none returned, and as she mourned their loss the vile mage took advantage of her grief and dispatched his best assassin to which they also miserably failed, escaping in the end. As the ruler finishes her story Bartleby recognizes some of the characters on the shield as being similar to an old Bogger dialect, by which the queen sends Mathers to the Boglands to the south which is a simple matter by following the yellow brick road. However as the two humans embrace and bid each other farewell, one has to wonder if this will be the last they see of each other or is it just the beginning of a future meeting?
It is a bit surprising to see writer Dave Franchini return to his prior excursion into the wonders of Oz by recalling events from Oz: The Wizard One-Shot, but at the same time it was comforting to remember how the current title began by the marvelous impression he made upon us with that narrative special. However that is the disadvantage for readers familiar with both the aforementioned one-shot and Oz: Heart of Magic since they are given the impaired perception of comprehending the slanted breadth of the story as a whole and a repetition of previous events with the audience wanting to shout out to the page various mistakes, with true knowledge behind the queen’s recollections and understanding of what will happen due to visual cues, most notably background images. And while those who deign ignorance can fully enjoy the story and what is to come, it is a shame for who cannot to allow their proficiency conjure memories of what has happened and thus contort Franchini’s story into the future they know. However at the same time, it is this new telling of the events leading to Dorothy’s ordeals which allow loyal fans to integrate new information in a way that may unveil a different outcome which could effect the concurrent series in ways which we may not anticipate, even acknowledging the manner by which the Wizard utilizes similar tricks on both heroines. No matter which path the reader takes, one can only joyous anticipate what is to precipitate with Skye’s interference with the Wizard’s plans and hope the two heroines may join forces to depose this pretender of the crown and thus bring justice to a much needed land over the rainbow.
But as we digest a skewed retelling of falsehoods, one cannot but forgive a sense of déjà vu due to the fantastically dynamic opening splash created by the talented pen of Daniel Mainé, for of course who would not be humorously entertained by the striking illustration of a winged ape being blasted by a spectacular flash of mystical energies, made all the more engrossing within Jorge Cortes’ thrilling colors, causing us to take pause to examine the amazing details nuanced by subtle shadings of light and shadow amongst the richness of ebony fur. It is this immodest scene which only rouses our interest of what is to follow – the ferocious anger of Skye so beautifully encompassed within the seduction of her form fitting costume contrasting against a blazing hand glowing with energy and the primal rage of Thane as he fights with tooth and claw, made all the more amusing to see him end his conflict with a headbutt. It is details like this which make the issue so enthralling, to watch two compatriots fight for their lives and yet not take the situation seriously but instead disarm it when the tension becomes too great with a charming smile or the straightforward use of his head. And yet the delight of this tale only gets better as Mainé displays his artistic interpretation of the Emerald City, giving us a splendid panorama of the capital city of Oz which is made all the more soothing by Cortes’ serene application of various shades of green, making the scenery appear to be natural instead of man made. Even when we are introduced to Bartleby with his nondescript features you cannot but be in awe to see such a featureless character have a sagacious presence due to his bearing, but he quickly shrinks to the background once Queen Dorothy makes an appearance. To see this regal woman walk in with a gown which appears to made of flowing water is domineering, even when compared to the force contained within Skye’s commanding countanence, it makes the next panels all the more exciting to watch this pair of stern women face off against each other once the pretender steps on a few toes. You can almost feel the temperature drop a few degrees once the Guardian’s visage grows stern amid that raven frame and it only grows colder from there, but as the panels change to show bleakness with dull colors from defence construction and the pretender recalls the tragedy, the beauty of one descends into pettiness with a sincerity which appears to be fake. It is the inspiring skill by which allows this issue to end on such a somber note, portraying two beautiful women but with the simple twist of a few facial lines one is seen as pompous and arrogant while with those same lines the other is revered as noble and friendly. This emotive canvas is moving in so many ways, allowing for the story to reveal itself in several venues, but it comes into its own brilliance with simplicity and sleek use of exceptional abilities.
As Skye continues to search for answers, this issue has a slight misstep due to the imbalance of information with the novice reader versus one well informed as to the politics happening within the Zenescope universe. And while in depth knowledge is not necessary to enjoy the story, too much information gleaned from other source does serves as an unneeded buffer which spoils what is to come. However if you can shelf your indecision and allow it to go fallow for the time being, this issue is a visual treat which will reward all with a desire to grant new interpretations for a welcoming future.
Age Rating: T (for Teens)
Released By: Zenescope
Release Date: June 26, 2019