My, for someone who's not in his usual Oz reading cycle right now, I have quite a few books and magazines to talk about! So I guess I'd better jump in and start.
- First up, from this months comics order, is The Steam Engines of Oz: The Geared Leviathin #1, the start of a new miniseries/story arc. Now that the Tin Woodman's heart has been restored, our heroes go in search of the Cowardly Lion. And it looks like they're going to need him, because a new threat has come to Oz over the Deadly Desert: The Wicked Witch of the West had not one, but two daughters, and they've decided it's time to end their exile!
- The only other comic is the final issue of Marvel's The Emerald City of Oz, and also the final Oz comic from Marvel (for now, at least). After picking up the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman in the last issue, our party gathers Jack Pumpkinhead and heads home to the Emerald City, where they learn the extent of the Nome King's plans, and what Ozma intends to do about it. Of course the Scarecrow gets his clever idea and saves the day, then Glinda makes Oz invisible to the outside world. The last page is a poignant one, as L. Frank Baum receives the feather with Dorothy's message on it (and that sure looks like his gazebo at Ozcot!). I'm sad that this series has ended, but I understand why, and this is the perfect place to wrap it up. Perhaps Marvel can be convinced to continue the adaptations as graphic novels only, as I really want to see Skottie Young's take on the Patchwork Girl!
- I also read Toto and the Cats of Oz by Robin Hess, in preparation for a quiz on this book at the last Oogaboo Rendezvous. As always, this is an awkward book for me to review, since I've known Robin for close to forty years now. I've also been familiar with this book for almost as long, as he shared bits of it at some of the earlier Oogaboo parties, back when I was still a student. It seems that Oz is under one of the greatest threats in its history, as the wizard Joom has found a way out of his imprisonment and into Oz. He uses some very dodgy magic to take over the form of a cat, and then works the cats of Oz up into a revolution. They kidnap Toto to use as a hostage in negotiations with Ozma and Dorothy, but of course he escapes and has many adventures of his own. And we get to see into some of the deepest inner workings of Glinda's magic. There are some very interesting ideas going on here, and it's a tightly plotted story, although there are times I think some of the characters use too big of a flyswatter to deal with some of the issues. It's nice to see this in print at last. (By the way, if you've never heard of Joom, you're right, he's new to this book. But he was originally planned to be another character from the Oz books who, it turns out, is still protected by copyright. If you want to know who, just spell his name backwards.)
- And I recently realized that I've very badly fallen down on my reports on the stories in the anthology Shadows of the Emerald City. As one of my New Year's resolutions is to read an Oz short story every weekend (at least until I don't have any more to read), I think these are going to go a lot faster, but today I play catch up. First is "One Wicked Day" by Frank Dutkiewicz, which looks at what happens to the Munchkins after the Wicked Witch of the East gets squashed by a house. With such a power vacuum to fill, a new "good" witch steps in. But it seems her methods are not quite as benevolent as some others. (It is not a coincidence that her name is Leninida.)
- "Chopper's Tale" by Jason Rubis s yet another take on the Tin Woodman's origin, as seen from the viewpoint of his axe! Yes, we see just how it was enchanted and its motivations for chopping off bits of Nick Chopper.
- "The Perfect Fit" by E. M. MacCallum tells the story of Gayelette's half-sister, and who she became in the Oz mythos. Yes, it's another origin story. (On a side note, some day somebody has to write the definitive Gayelette story. Where has she been and what has she been doing throughout the entire Oz series?)
- I knew that "The Fuddles of Oz" by Mari Ness would be pretty darned faithful to the books, as Ness read and reviewed all forty Oz books a few years ago for Tor's website. Sure enough, this is a tale of the Fuddles (hence the name of the story, of course) and what happens to them when the Munchkins and Gillikins find other things to do and don't come to their town as often to put them back together. This is not pretty, but it is certainly logical and goes along with everything we learned about the Fuddles in The Emerald City of Oz.
- Speaking of short stories, I'd be remiss if I didn't also mention the 2013 issue of Oziana, the Oz Club's annual literary magazine. Unlike Shadows of the Emerald City, this year's issue is out-and-out all traditional Oz. You can see the complete rundown on my website's news page.