Never trust what is behind the curtain … especially when the Wizard is in charge.
Writer: Terry Kavanagh
Artwork: Marcelo Mueller
Colors: Leonardo Paciarotti
Letters: Maurizio Clausi
What They Say:
What is the secret of this giant sentinel, and will our intrepid crew discover the answer before one or more of them pay the ultimate price? When they finally find what they’ve been searching for, will it be too late? Meanwhile Bartleby the Scarecrow discovers that not all is as it seems in the Emerald City, but not before the mad Wizard and his scheming partner finally reach their ultimate goal.
Content (please note that portions of review may contain spoilers):
As they feel their victory soon in coming, the Wizard begins to enjoy the company of his most trusted ally, not the one calling herself Tessa but the form of someone much more sinister, former empress of the forgotten land of Oogaboo – Ann Soforth. But as this vicious couple discusses means for their revenge, the true queen of Oz finds herself in genuine peril as she and her companions attempt to navigate through the Impossible Pass-Pass but are stopped by a gigantic automaton named Talos. Yet even as they valiantly attempt to battle the mechanical monstrosity by any means necessary the group is soon presented by the dire prospect they may never win, with the immediate crushing underfoot of the Nome King and Mara’s two confidants. Now with nothing left to lose the Jinjurian general and her foxer pet relentlessly retaliate against the metallic menace with no apparent effect and even her loyalest Emerald guards and Thorne join in the hopeless battle, all against their blue-skinned leader’s wishes. While Dorothy may wish to reason with this murderous behemoth, none of her comrades can see the logic in this futile path for their judgment has been clouded by the desire to avenge needless deaths of those they called friends.
However even as this fellowship finds themselves confronted by an impenetrable walking wall, the Wizard recalls how his plan and subsequent dominion over the Emerald City was much less complicated. It all began on the day the beloved Glinda and her former student Adraste managed to breach the same barrier Dorothy and companions are now attempting to bypass, but with their insurmountable power they were able to pass through it easily. But as this ruler greeted his honored guests and listened with great interest to their tales of the north and feasted upon delights from across of his realm, what his visitors did not know was these tasty treats were as tainted as his true goals. For as the bait slowly made the women succumb to his wishes and they relaxed within the luxuries of his palace, the real trap was revealed and easily allowed this greedy man to place them under his control, ready to use at his leisure. However that was in the past, for now, the Wizard and Ann have all they need for the drillnaughts have discovered the final key … even under the belated protests of the normally unassertive counselor Bartleby.
For a story which seemed hesitant in advancing its own narrative, it is truly a pleasure to finally witness a goal for the delicate nuances of writer Terry Kavanagh’s finely drawn out plot, even if it may be lacking in villainous complexity as dictated within a straight forward conflict for dominance and power. With all of the tenacity the Wizard showed by creating an elaborate strategy from the start: drawing guards and loyal supporters away from Emerald City in an attempt to kill normal citizens or do the same to the defenders, setting a charade of a blue-skinned assassin after the queen’s life and casting a glamour spell to allow Dorothy take on that role, defeat the would-be killer in his new disguise as The Gale in time for replacement guards and Bartleby to witness this victory and then only have everyone not on his side escape and finally the cruelest side of the enchantment is no one is able to see the truth as to her true identity, and yet this whole scheme was for the shallowest of goals … where is the despicable nature we once saw, has it disappeared as easily as his ambitions? At first he seemed to be someone who was able to venture toward a long term endeavor and we saw some of those ideals within his background, then to concoct a plan of using Glenda and Adraste’s energies for his own seemed well thought out, but then the truth behind the improvement plans comes to light – and for what, more power? This objective appears too simplistic, after all, he has essentially exiled Dorothy and anyone else who may stand in his way and those who stayed cannot see through to his true identity thanks to the magical masquerade, and yet the Wizard still seeks more mystical strength. You can almost picture this as stockpiling weapons in preparation for some enemy yet to come over the horizon even as he allows the real ruler free reign to gather allies and allow hope to free the magical guardians of Oz, all while watching and laughing in amusement. Is his confidence this overabundant so as to allow clichéd foolishness to become his downfall or does Kavanagh have something else in mind for the final two issues which will remedy these trite premises and allow for a promising future … one can only hope for the best.
With the machinations of the Wizard’s goals finally coming to light it would be appropriate for the artistic side of this story to create something dynamically worthwhile, and yet the intensely emotional artwork of Marcelo Mueller plus darkly intriguing colors of Leonardo Paciarotti seem to embrace the dual modes of twisted perverseness and hopelessness through the story. To watch the mad mage and Ann callously discuss the heroes’ fruitless endeavours is chilling, even as the cold tonal palette amplifies their cruel attitude but as we flip the page those same rich colors reflect something entirely different – a frantic excitement which erupts from the steamy atmosphere of the scene, making the event heated in their desperation to survive. You cannot but wish to leap into this treacherous battle even as we watch futility grow, the frustration of the actors each boiling over in their vain attempts to defeat a metallic mountain, all while knowing they may soon join their companions in the afterlife. It is this sincere valor which makes the conflict so passionate and yet as we return to the Wizard’s story, you can almost feel a chill pass over the pages as the same color combinations are used in the environment – it is the pervasive vileness of his demeanor which taints the spectrum and permits such a drastic change in the graphic temperature. This is the skill by which these artists sport their talents, allowing for subtle changes to via line and tone to steer the reader to their own visual conclusions all while not sacrificing quality, a simple yet effective method to communicate a wealth of emotional trauma.
Oz: Heart of Magic may have made a leap forward in revealing the depth of the Wizard’s ambitions, but at the same time the shallowness of his goal seems out of character for someone who is so driven as to impair his foes all to allow him to watch their suffering. And while the artistry of the presentation keeps readers captivated by the richness of the display, it still feels lacking due to depicting the same scenes of desperation for the heroes and cruelty for the villains. But as we reach the midpoint for the title there is still time to develop the story and yet there appears to be reluctance in revealing too much, however one can only hope this series can be saved by some last-minute appeal or destroyed by the same change of narrative.
Age Rating: T (for Teens)
Released By: Zenescope
Release Date: June 26th, 2019