Living in Kansas, you get real tired, real quick of all the “We’re not in Kansas anymore” quips that everyone thinks is so funny to say – like we’ve NEVER heard that one before, putz. Frank Fizzle has it worse, his dad has been trying for years to become the official Oz writer, or as the title of the book suggests, the Royal Historian of Oz, to no avail and father and son are at their wits end.
Previously in Oz: L. Frank Baum is one of those lucky few that hit upon an idea and released it at just the right time to capture the hearts and minds of thousands. Like J.R.R. Tolkien, Baum presented his stories as fact, and he was only transcribing those tales as they were shared with him. That success lead to other books, and when he died, someone else took up the mantle of the Royal Historian of Oz. For better or worse, Oz has become one of the worlds most endearing tales, and no doubt it will continue into the future.
WE’RE OFF TO SEE THE WIZARD
Frank Fizzle’s dad is a writer. Not a good writer mind you, but a writer with a lot of passion. Jasper Fizzle loves everything about the Wonderful Land of Oz, and as this story opens, readers discover that all is not well for the Fizzle family. The Official Oz Society has deemed Jasper to be a literary criminal of the worst kind, and present him with a cease and desist threatening dire action if he continues to persist with his line of Oz stories.
Frank is more than angry at his father, as the two are at the end of their rope with no money coming in, and bills piling up. Like any teenager might do in similar circumstances, he lashes out at his father. Saddened by his son’s outburst, Jasper takes a walk, only to discover an estate sale where he finds a pair of silver slippers he believes to belong to the Wicked Witch of the East. Having no money to pay for them, Jasper steals the shoes and makes off with his prize. Three days later he returns home with a winged monkey and a carriage that is bigger on the inside than on the outside. Packed floor to ceiling are all sorts of relics from the Land of Oz that Jasper claims were given to him, Frank quickly figures out that his father duped or stole the items from the various inhabitants of Oz in order to make himself famous and become the Royal Historian.
The fact that the father is a thief is one that is really interesting in this story. While one might want to root for the dreamer and his son, the fact that they guy is doing it illegally doesn’t sit well with me. It is just a story, but still there is something not so noble in terms of the father’s actions.
And those actions are not going unnoticed by Princess Ozma, who summons the Cowardly Lion, Tin Woodman, the Scarecrow, and Scraps, the Patchwork Girl and orders them to retrieve the lost items at all cost – even if that means kidnapping Frank in the process.
The story being told here is one that is fantastical in every sense of the word. While I think turning the father into a common thief and con-man detracts from the potential fun and nerve-racking adventure that is going to play out in this mini-series, I still got a kick out of the way Kovac and Hirsch are modernizing the world view on the L. Frank Baum series. The pages are packed with exposition that never drags, and just when you wonder if things can get any better, the creators insert a new surprise that keeps the entire issue lively and fun.
THE WONDERFUL ART OF OZ
It might surprise a lot of people, but great art isn’t only found in the pages of issues from the big two. Smaller publishers and creators have surprised the heck out of me with their offerings, and The Royal Historian of Oz is right up there with some really nice art. While the issue is in black and white, the artist (SLG didn’t distinguish who was doing what in this book) packs the pages with so much intense detail and wonderful inking, that there are times I was wondering if I was reading a comic book, or glancing through a Where’s Waldo book. In one single panel, readers are presented with all manner of interesting baubles, trinkets, and gewgaws, that the central character is completely lost, even though he is frames in the middle of the panel. While I would probably find this style annoying as hell in another book, it works really well in this first issue.
BOTTOM LINE: BUY IT
I really thought this book was going to arrive as a warm steaming pile, but it really surprised the heck out of me. As I’ve mentioned before, the capes and tights schtick does tend to get tiring after a while, and being able to sit down and read a comic that is totally out of the genre resets and refreshes my desire to continue to read the medium. The Royal Historian of Oz is only a dollar, and totally worth the investment. I’m giving it 5 out of 5 Stars.