Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The latest Oz reading

More! Yes, more Oz and quasi-Oz and pseudo-Oz and Ozzish books! Here's the wrap-up of the latest:

  • My classic re-read was The Hidden Prince of Oz by Gina Wickwar. This was published by the Oz Club in 2000 to celebrate the Oz Centennial, and it's clear to see why this won the contest. It's a rip-roaring, very Ozzy treat, with all kinds of great new characters — and that's one of the biggest problems. There are too many characters, and it's hard to keep track of them all, particularly when the three or four main plot threads, and the associated groups of characters, all meet up and join forces. Still, the plot is tight and holds together very well, and all ends satisfactorily. Special kudos for Anna-Maris Cool's illustrations. Her style reminds me of, surprisingly, Frank Kramer, if Kramer knew his Oz better and didn't have some of the weaknesses he's been criticized for. But Cool very much has her own style, while still keeping all of the old familiar characters looking like we know them. One observation, however: Princess Vitrea, in her traveling clothes, looks like she wandered in from an '80s music video. She's still lovely, however.
  • My old "Baum" story this time around was Mary Louise at Dorfield by "Edith Van Dyne". This was actually the first book where "Edith Van Dyne" wasn't L. Frank Baum; it's Emma Speed Sampson's first stab at it, and it shows! A lot of the characterizations are just off. Josie O'Gorman, who under Baum was the cool, logical girl detective, talks about her instincts and superstitions, and how they've always helped her. And wheelchair-bound Irene MacFarland, who's never let her handicap stand in the way of her accomplishments or esteem before, is now jealous of all of her able-bodied friends and what they can do, and worries what kind of life she can lead. I wasn't impressed. But the big problem with this book is that Mary Louise is barely in it! And the book is supposed to be about her wedding, no less. No, this is the first Mary Louise book in which Josie O'Gorman is the main character, unintended thought that may be. Since the last book, Josie's father has died, and so being on her own and the old house in Washington having too many memories of her father in it, Josie decides to settle in Dorfield. (This makes sense, as she's been to Dorfield in every book in the series so far anyway!) There, she decided to open a shop with one of Mary Louise's friends, Elizabeth Wright, and still be a detective in secret on the side. And what a case she's found in this one — and they've targeted Mary Louise's wedding!
  • Two more Oz comics. The first is Grimm Fairy Tales Presents The Library #2. Sela manages to escape from the book of dinosaurs she was trapped in at the end of last issue, but a Tyrannosaurus Rex follows her out. Good thing her brother, Thomas, landed in a book of Greek myths, because when he escapes, Hercules comes with him. So, yes, there's a battle between Herculese and a T. Rex! How awesome is that? Also, from out of a Western come some villains, and a good guy who uses a snake like a whip! (More awesomeness!) Finally, just as everyone's catching their breath and trying to figure out what's going on, here come Flying Monkeys! Yup, the Oz content finally enters our story, and the cliffhanger is the Wicked Witch of the West looming over Sela and asking about a key. (What key? Ah, there are three more issues to find out!) My biggest gripe is that this Wicked Witch has two eyes, green skin, and dresses in black. Yup, she's MGM movie based. Couldn't they have used Denslow's version, or one from any other illustrated edition? Still, I doubt the average comics reader would know who she was if she didn't look like Maggie...
  • And finally, issue #178 of the Knights of the Dinner Table Magazine. It has an Oz cover, so we ordered it. Turns out that was the only Ozzy thing. Oh, well, it still looks good.

That's it for this month's comics order, but I still have some more books in my pile, and I'll tell you about them once I finish reading them.


Hungry Tiger Talk said...

I had a very different take on MARY LOUISE AT DORFIELD. It seemed to me Sampson saw the series' strength and jumped right in. Josie ís an interesting character, while Mary Louise is just, well, sweet.

However I always thought Josie was the main character even in Baum's books. She may only come in half way thru each - but she's the character that grows, and that solves the mystery in each book. And most often, the detective IS the protagonist in a mystery series, which this is.

I do think it's Sampson's weakest MARY LOUSIE title - each one gets better, IMHO. So try another when you have the chance :)

Eric said...

I've already read (and commented on, somewhere around here) ...Stands the Test, and believe me, the rest of the Josie O'Gorman books (for they all have her name in the title) are on my bucket list. And yeah, I meant to add something along the lines of, "No wonder this series morphed into one starring Josie O'Gorman." (I still maintain that Sampson didn't quite get all of the characterizations quite right, but she does handle the overall tone of the series.)