It has taken me longer than anticipated to finish off these summaries of my latest Oz reading, but here they are!
- The Wicked Will Rise, volume 2 of the Dorothy Must Die series by Danielle Paige. Having failed to assassinate the dictator of Oz, evil Dorothy, Kansas teenager Amy Gumm finds herself separated from the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked. She has to deal with her growing magic powers on her own, but receives guidance from the Queen of the Winged Monkeys and the land of the Rainbows. And she'll need their help, because she still needs to collect the Scarecrow's brain and the Lion's courage if she's ever going to stand a chance of defeating Dorothy. I'll be honest, I can't take this series too seriously, just because it's so different. But I am enjoying it nevertheless because Paige is so good at creating realistic characters and putting them in difficult situations. Amy keeps bouncing from one situation to another, and she doesn't always handle things well. I'm interested in seeing where this series is going to go, because it sure isn't predictable.
- The Magic Scroll of Oz by Ray Kelley. Dorothy, having finally grown up and tiring of the urban life, is living a quiet, agrarian life on Jack Pumpkinhead's farm and distancing herself from the Emerald City. But when a scroll is stolen that can rewrite history, Glinda asks Dorothy to recover it and prevent disaster. Kelley really knows his Oz books, as one can guess from the premise alone. His Dorothy may not be what a lot of people expect, but her portrayal makes sense within the context of the story. Other than a grown-up Dorothy, this is a traditional Oz book in that there are lots of little side trips that ultimately don't come into the main story, but they are still fun, and show that Dorothy hasn't lost a step in the ensuing decades. The identity and motivation of the thief are surprising, but come out of an L. Frank Baum classic, so it all wraps up very neatly.
- The Complete Annotated Oz Squad, Volume 1 by Steve Alhquist, Andrew Murphy, and Mike Sagara. This collects the 1990s Oz Squad comic series, including two specials. The basic premise is that Dorothy, Toto, and their friends from the original novel are now secret agents, moving between the Emerald City and our world to protect them from each other (but primarily Oz from us). I don't recall this from my initial reading of these books when they first came out, but the notes make it clear that during World War II, the Nazis found a way to Oz and tried to use its magic to conquer both worlds. They were driven back, of course, but it was a wake-up call for Oz as to just how far Earthlings will go to exploit them. These issues originally came out from four different publishers, and it shows. The first half is a hard-hitting, gritty version of the characters, which includes Tik-Tok going on an expletive-filled killing spree in Kansas when his thought works run down, and Dorothy becoming John F. Kennedy's lover. The second half, however, is a little gentler, with some time-travel exploits that see the Scarecrow befriending Leonardo da Vinci, among other shenanigans. This is not for Oz traditionalists, but fans of Oz comics will appreciate having this. (I've seen listings for a volume 2, but I don't know what it could possibly contain, as the entire series is in this book—complete with unresolved cliffhanger ending, I'm afraid. But volume 2 also seems to be well out of print, if it ever existed at all.)
- Bucketheads in Oz by a whole bunch of authors. By coincidence, this picks up after the events of Tippetarius in Oz, which I had read only weeks earlier. Anyway, a bunch of new Oz characters are out to find Zim Greenleaf, because they think he is their best bet for rescuing a woman who is trapped in a ring. Through the course of events, they meet up with Boq' have to deal with Mombi, and find a potion that can grant wishes—but only once. Yes, of course Zim saves the day, but the journey getting there is a lot of fun.
- And finally, I decided not to make the same mistake I made last year, and so I started reading this year's OzCon International program book before the convention even ended! This was the usual mix of writings tying into this year's convention (celebrating The Magic of Oz on its centennial), but it seems to be a little thinner than usual, sadly. Besides a couple of essays on the book itself and a picture gallery, there is one on the animal society in the Forest of Gugu; how Oz has fostered friendship for at least one fan; the influence of Theosophy on the writings of L. Frank Baum; and the surprising Oz connections to the 1906 musical review Mam'zelle Champagne.