Writer: Terry Kavanagh
Artwork: Marcelo Mueller
Colors: Leonardo Paciarotti
Letters: Maurizio Clausi
What They Say:
Dorothy Gale was just a farm girl from Kansas before she found out her true destiny. After being magically whisked away to the realm known as Oz and forced to take on many forms of evil that sought to kill or control her, she stood her ground and proved herself worthy to be the Queen of the Emerald City. Recently, an evil wizard from the unknown southern lands has cast a spell on Dorothy, hiding her true self from her loyal followers. Once again, she is going to have to fight for the people who rely on her.
Content (please note that portions of review may contain spoilers):
After having been tricked by the evil Wizard and forced to flee Emerald City, the once benevolent Dorothy now finds herself being pursued around Oz in hope of securing allies, but her outward appearance does not help in those matters. Thanks to an enchanted collar placed around her neck by the cowardly magician none of her once loyal subjects recognize her as the former queen, all they see is a blue-skinned girl who now has a bounty to be either captured or killed on sight. However thankfully there are a few friends who remain devoted to the former monarch and with their help they search for new companions, and yet at the same time they must conceal themselves from the pretender’s gaze. As the group enters the fantastical place called the Underworld they find themselves amazed by an unusual arrangement of landscape, with sky and ground having switched positions, but even as they stare in awe it is the potential of danger which keeps them alert to every new possibility and curious as to what awaits them.
However as The Gale endeavors to create a new path for herself, the Wizard who now takes her place enjoys showing off the latest improvement project for the kingdom to his advisor Bartleby, within a former residential area called Greeniya. But as the mechanical abominations called Drillnaughts begin tearing the area apart all in the name of progress, the straw headed councillor is wary as to this being good for the townspeople. Even as the same citizens in question cheer for their ruler, the person posing as said leader assures her friend this is action is for the best, affirming their safety is of utmost concern as they are settled within comfortable temporary villages outside the wall. Although as they survey the migration and continue their conversation, the unsettled man is still unsure by this upheaval to the tranquility of the realm, but with his numerous responsibilities he cannot find the time to inspect the relocation areas. To placate her companion’s worries the queen assures him she personally approved of every site and wishes for all of the improvements to take as short in time as possible, so there is no need to worry. And yet there is still an uncertainty as to this action, but for the time being Bartleby must trust his leader, no matter how concerned he may be for the land and its people.
Throughout Oz: Heart of Magic it seemed writer Terry Kavanagh was deliberately holding back essential information as he carefully crafted a contrived tale to elaborate as to the meaning behind the Wizard’s hunger, but the story sadly concludes after of his meticulous attention to detail has collapsed into a clichéd conclusion. While the premise begun within Oz: The Wizard One-Shot had promise, which was strangely not added to this trade paperback perhaps due to differing creative teams, somehow during this evolution the narrative lost its way and became more concerned with weaving endless melodramatic intrigue instead creating a story which built a relationship with the reader and allowed them to become engendered with Dorothy’s crusade to free Oz. Even those familiar with the background of this realm may have found this series confusing as Kavanagh kept adding more elements to the scenario behind Ann and the Wizard’s need to take over Emerald City, and yet any reasoning behind the obsession was never fully explained or why Lady Soforth would join him in this mad takeover aside from revenge. Unsurprisingly as we found ourselves delving deeper into this mage’s history while we journeyed farther into his kingdom, there was a lack of understanding as to what had happened or why both Obsidian City and the forgotten province of Oogaboo had a grudge against the Emerald City; as such, the audience has no basis as to cement their hatred and we are left with antagonists that are hollow in their reasoning which then has repercussions on the series as a whole, with the only option being to read L. Frank Baum’s books to be given an inkling as to what happened within the original stories. However in lieu of giving readers a conclusion which satisfies with a fulfilling narrative to plug in any plot holes, we instead receive a finale which has so many fantasy precepts it is overwhelming: noble hero sacrifices self to save friends and is given the same in return, villain gains his ultimate prize and becomes drunk with power, forgotten hero leads an army to take back the kingdom, too numerous betrayals against the villain to count … and the list goes on and on. This title leaves us wanting for a story which has more substance than nuance, and while it does have the components for a noteworthy tale it lacks for a deep closure to unanswered questions and a want to know what will happen next within Dorothy’s realm in the aftermath.
While the series is lacking for a story which gives the audience a rewarding experience, the same cannot be said for the fantastic illustrations of Marcelo Mueller that give the tale dynamic enthusiasm and Leonardo Paciarotti’s vibrant colors which illuminate the drab atmosphere with a life of its own. The stunning synergy of this wonderful team allows each panel to create a stirring melodrama which builds from the one before, amplifying the emotional vibrance taken from finely detailed images and stirring in an array of earthen tones and mystical neons to give every page an incredible complexity resulting in a magical concoction of which draws you in ever deeper with every sip of this addicting elixir. Although the abundance of electrifying scenery may be overwhelming at times to the reader, it is this magical reminder which allows the audience to remember this is not Kansas anymore and The Gale is the queen of this realm, weighing all those heavy responsibilities upon her slender shoulders and her actions upon a curvaceous body. Combined with the audacious nature of the artwork and we receive a visual treat which would feel out of place within any other story – displaying a captivating farm girl standing majestically ahead of a ragtag army of companions who would not fail to fight for what is right. You cannot but feel the building excitement within this ominous battle and while the complexity of the forces seems fitting to something from an ambitious fantasy movie, it is the grandeur of displaying our favorite good witch and her fearless adept at the forefront which makes it all the more thrilling. However when we are given the opportunity to witness the menace of the battle to siege the surrounding walls of Emerald City plus the throng of countless soldiers and the gigantic Talos in the background, one cannot but make a comparison to some fantastical MMORPG like World of Warcraft, the scale of the battle kept intact and with it a memory which we will not soon forget, even if the narrative behind title was a disappointment.
Oz: Heart of Magic is an unbalanced story for an Oz series that depends on its characters to define the foundation, and while it does leave more questions unanswered than one would like, the underlying tale does work into the mystique of the franchise and echoes into the history of Dorothy’s legacy. However due to its inclinations to build up melodrama and intrigue, the villains’ motivations feel hollow and as such it creates a narrative that leaves the reader unsatisfied with a lackluster conclusion that ends with too many clichés to allow them to go unnoticed and wonder what went wrong in the end. It is only thanks to fantastic illustrations and inspiring colors that the series creates a memorable impression, but in all the title is blasé and allows us to wonder how the plot threads will be hemmed in within in the next series.
Age Rating: T (for Teens)
Released By: Zenescope
Release Date: February 17, 2021