by Eric Shanower, Skottie Young and Jean-Francois Beaulieu
The fifth issue of The Emerald City of Oz is the last in Marvel’s Oz series, which started in 2009. It has been an incredible series overall, and has not failed to impress. The final issue is no exception. This issue, along with the rest of the series, features Eric Shanower’s writing (adapted from L. Frank Baum’s original stories, of course), Skottie Young’s art, and Jean-Francois Beaulieu’s colouring – a combination which has proven to be just right for the whole series. Anyone who has read this (the entire series or just this issue) would be hard pressed to find something to complain about, as everything flows and fits together so perfectly. This issue brings us to a distraught Dorothy, along with the friends we’ve come to know and love. They’ve just found out that the Nome King has made plans to attack the Emerald City, along with his new allies. The group goes back home (they’ve been traveling) to Ozma, who has already heard the news. They aren’t sure whether they can overcome this band of foes, but young Ozma is determined!
It’s clear that Eric Shanower is a fan of Oz. He stays true to the original stories from the early 1900’s, and does not take his own creative liberties. Many people have put their own creative spin on the Land of Oz, and the majority of those stories can be considered highly disappointing to any Oz fan. Eric Shanower’s versions are not like those at all. Any fan would easily be impressed by these books, from those who have admired Oz their entire lives, to those who are just being introduced to it. The Emerald City of Oz fits its predecessors perfectly, and falls right into place with the issues leading up to it. This entire series is ideal for anybody – there isn’t a ton of reading to do, making it great for kids and the art tells enough of the story so that the words don’t need to work too hard. There isn’t a single panel that is filled with too many words, which is the way a book like this should be.
As usual, Skottie Young’s art speaks for itself. His art, in any situation, is fantastic for everyone. It appeals to children, who love the cutesy look of these characters, as well as adults, who can appreciate how incredible his drawings really are – in that sense, it’s perfect for the stories of Oz overall, since the stories are so classic that really everyone can love them. The characters we’ve seen throughout the entire Oz series are great. They always look the way they should, and they just make the reader smile. On the other hand, the enemies of Oz in this story are equally as amazing. They’re all unbelievably creative and perfectly strange-looking, the way “evil” should be portrayed in a fairytale land like Oz. The Nomes (the main evil forces at hand here) are adorable, fuzzy little creatures, while their allies (the Whimsies, the Growleywogs, and the Phanfasms) are unique in their own way. They’re all equally hilarious and still believable as the bad guys. The Nomes and their team begin to tunnel beneath the Emerald City, and each of these unique-looking foes has their own plan to get what they want, rather than what they’ve agreed to with the Nome King – and meanwhile Ozma and her group above ground have their own plan to foil the evil forced below. Ozma has known of their plan all along, thanks to her magic mirror. One of the best panels of this issue is when the invaders break through the ground – Skottie Young has devoted an entire page to this. Jean-Francois Beaulieu’s colourist skills go hand-in-hand with Skottie Young’s whimsical art throughout this issue – bringing the reader seamlessly from the bright and sunny Emerald City, to the darker and more foreboding tunnel filled with foes. The best (and also saddest) part of this whole issue is the front cover. It’s simple, but says so much – and so does the sad little “farewell” Skottie Young has included in his signature.
The story closes with a page featuring L. Frank Baum himself – an absolutely perfect ending to this absolutely perfect series. Without a doubt, it leaves the reader wanting more… but all good things must end and this is the best place to do so. It’s been an amazing run, and it’s something everyone should pick up – whether it’s the entire series or just one or two issues. It’s a light read for absolutely anyone, and it’s a perfect addition to any Oz fan’s reading list. There’s not a single bad thing a person could say about this issue. It’s bittersweet, but what a wonderful way to end it.