Sunday, March 09, 2014

The Latest Oz Reading

I dove into this week's short story, "Emeralds to Emeralds, Dust to Dust" by Seanan McGuire (the second story from the Oz Reimagined anthology), with some trepidation. Before I ever encountered this story, I'd become a little bit of a McGuire fan through the Hugo Award-winning podcast, SF Squeecast. So I was doubly delighted when she contacted me last year, and offered to help with my panel on Oz comics at last year's Emerald City Comic Con. She is a wonderful person, had some great comments on Oz comics, and signed my copy of Oz Reimagined right on the first page of her story. So I was really hoping I would like this one. But the first few pages made me think, "Uh-oh." This is a version of Oz where Dorothy was just the first of a wave of people coming to Oz from the Great Outside World. They're called crossovers, and are treated by the Ozites as an unwanted immigrant minority. Much of the Emerald City has become a crossover ghetto. Naturally, it did not prove to be politically acceptable for Ozma to have Dorothy, the most famous crossover of them all, in her inner circle, so she was kicked out of the palace. Dorothy is now grown up and living in a squalid apartment, straddling the line between the Ozite-occupied Uptown and Downtown, the crossover region. Dorothy has also learned a little magic, and is now taking the title Wicked Witch of the West. Yeah, this version of Oz is not going to be popular with a lot of hardcore Oz fans. But it was also so well written and dealt with logically that I found myself sucked in, and I really enjoyed this story in its own right. Anyway, to get back to the main plot, a murder has been committed, and since it took place in Downtown, Ozma expects Dorothy to deal with it. She does, and finds the killer, but it may have made her life a lot more complicated. There are several other adult situations and key details that I left out, but I think this is enough to give you the idea. McGuire clearly took to the "reimagined" part of this anthology, and makes the most of it. The murder mystery is pretty much secondary to her worldbuilding, which is striking. I'd love to see more stories set in this version of Oz. I just wouldn't want to live there.

The new comics order came, and so naturally there are some Oz comics in it. Here are the ones I've read so far:

  • Oz #6 by Zenescope. This is the conclusion to the series, and even though it's Zenescope's grim-and-gritty take on Oz, all ends happily. The Wicked Witch has the complete Veridian Scepter, but it proves to not be enough to defeat all the forces of Oz. In the end, Dorothy gets it back and deals with the witch. Much to my surprise, unlike other books of this type, Dorothy doesn't become the new Wicked Witch of the West or Queen of Oz or something, she actually gets to go back to Kansas, with Toto. Ah, well, I suspect we'll see more of this version of Oz before long (beyond the Tales from Oz series, that is).
  • The Steam Engines of Oz: The Geared Leviathan #3. Hey, is this really the last issue of this arc? I thought there would be one more. Oh, well, they still managed to wrap it up nicely and satisfactorily, with a neat twist ending. Yes, the twin wicked witches are dealt with, and with a twist that I didn't see coming. It seems both of them have different reactions to their mother's legacy. But the real star of this book is Victoria. Until now I felt she'd been overshadowed, but here she shines. Not only does she get to put her mechanical skills to good use, but we also find out something about her in the end that will forever change her and our perception of her. So now Victoria has new duties, but they've also set things up very nicely for another series in which she has to find out more about herself. (Yes, I'm being deliberately vague so as not to give away any surprises.)
I'll have another short story, and probably a few comics, to review next weekend, but after that things start to go crazy, and I may end up taking a few weeks off. But explanations will have to wait for another time.

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