Indie Comics Spotlight: The Legend of Oz, Strange Attractors, Grimm Fairy Tales Realm Knights
by Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)
The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West #1
The Wizard of Oz seems to be pretty hot right now, with publishers like Zenescope and Arcana venturing into the mythical Land of Oz They’re not the only ones, however, as Big Dog Ink is making their own foray into the historic property with The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West #1. The issue is written by Tom Hutchison, with art by Alisson Borges and colors by Kate Finnegan.
Gale is a flavor of Dorothy, haunted by flashbacks to a massive tornado. She’s making her way through a rather desolate western landscape accompanied by her horse Toto and two six-shooters on her hips, courtesy of one wicked witch. She’s going to the Emerald City in hopes of finding the Wizard, but of course a straightforward path would be pretty boring for readers and the characters. Throw in some flying monkeys in a saloon and Gale has her work cut out for her.
Hutchison throws readers right into the mix, capitalizing on the assumption that the reader already knows the backstory behind Dorothy/Gale and how she wound up in Oz. That tornado is probably the only similarity between the two stories, as The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West #1 diverges greatly once Gale lands in Oz. She’s a cowboy moving through a dangerous world, off to see the wizard and realizing that the yellow brick road is also powering the world’s economy.
If there’s one complaint about the story, it’s that Gale as a character really holds the reader’s hand throughout. There’s a lot of narrating of events and some “witty” retorts that sort of detract from some parts of the book. She is the central character, but there’s very little interaction with other characters in the book, other than a barkeep, enemy combatant and supposed sheriff. The first issue really establishes Gale as a quick-shot, but not much else because of the minimal interactions.
The art by Borges is very polished. Characters are illustrated well, despite less attention paid to background settings. Gale brandishing the six-shooters is done very well, but when they’re holstered they’re resting on very curvaceous hips. There are some panels that really only serve to accentuate Gale’s figure, which may or may not turn off some readers. There’s not a lot of blatant sexuality, although it’s clear a few of the panels act more to raise the reader’s interest than advance the plot.
As far as adaptations go, The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West #1 is actually an interesting take on an old classic. Giving Gale a bullish attitude coupled with stellar shooting is unique and puts her fate in her hands. Hints have been dropped about the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion and whether or not they play a larger role in the course of the miniseries remains to be seen. For the time being, find solace in the thought that Dorothy (Gale) could hold her own in a shootout.
The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West #1 is available now via comiXology.
Dr. Ian Malcolm was the somewhat eccentric character in Jurassic Park, waxing poetic on chaos theory and the fact that two droplets of water don’t follow the same path. He also had a firsthand encounter with a Tyrannosaurus Rex, but that’s neither here nor there. Still though, his knowledge of chaos theory is rooted in fact and it’s that fact central the new graphic novel Strange Attractors from Archaia Entertainment. The graphic novel is written by Charles Soule, with illustrations by Greg Scott, colors by Art Lyon and Matthew Petz and letters by Thomas Mauer.
In 1978, Dr. Spencer Brownfield saved New York City from itself, bringing the city back from the verge of collapse and ruin. And for thirty years, his small, minute and unnoticed adjustments to the city’s systems have, kept the city afloat. Or so he claims to Heller Wilson, a young graduate student that Dr. Brownfield has chosen as his successor. Dr Brownfield’s claims about “complexity math” and its application to the city’s patterns seem to be the ravings of a man broken by the death of his wife and daughter. Heller quickly learns that there may be some truths to Dr. Brownfield’s theories, some of which border on just plane ridiculous.
Soule has infused Strange Attractors with everything New York City, which makes sense considering he lives in the Brooklyn. To say that the work is an open love letter to NYC is selling the work short, as it’s much more complex than that. Dr. Brownfield’s entire life is dictated by the notion that both life’s simplicities and complexities can have astounding effects on the future. The fact that some of those events are what make NYC tick just happens to be a happy coincidence.
Therein lies the beauty of a work like Strange Attractors. It’s a story that demands self-reflection on the part of the reader, asking that they think about their place in their environment. The fact that a city is aspiring to be a well-oiled machine isn’t too far-fetched, but that flawless performance requires minor and major adjustments. Dr. Brownfield is just smart (crazy?) enough to believe he can cause those adjustments and his approach is one part theoretical physics/mathematics and one part on conspiracy theory. The whole of both parts is a fascinating read with interesting characters navigating everyday life.
Scott’s art perfectly captures the NYC feel Soule relies on for the work. It’s got the right amount of unfinished quality that keeps the reader moving along with the story, never allowing them to settle down. That’s a good thing, because it really conveys the bustle that comes with being in NYC. There are some starkly illustrated panels with dramatic color pops by Lyon and Petz that frame key moments of the story. The panels really embody NYC, ensuring that every illustration is teeming with background life that feels realistic.
Strange Attractors isn’t a book for the weak of heart. It requires a commitment on the part of the reader, but if they’re willing to read and enjoy it, they’ll find a really satisfying book. The science part of it isn’t too overwhelming and the premise is very interesting. Everyone affects the world around them–whether they know it or not–and some people view their ability to impact the world as a responsibility. The outcome is a fascinating look at life’s moments (big and small) and the intricacies that accompany something as simple as a cup being thrown on a soccer field. Life’s full of consequences and as long as there’s a steward to oversee them, everything will be ok.
Strange Attractors is in stores now for $19.95 as 128 page, 6.625” x 10.25”, full-color hardcover.
Grimm Fairy Tales Realm Knights One-Shot
Clearly, the people of Earth need help defending themselves, as it seems we’re one alien invasion away from being destroyed. Whether or not we have a super team to get us through the dark times remains to be seen, but in the Zenescope universe, a team of being assembled that will save the day. Grimm Fairy Tales Realm Knights One-Shot is the introduction to that team. The issue is written by Pat Shand, with pencils by Noah Salonga and Wagner Souza, colors by Jeff Balke and letters by Jim Campbell.
During a United Nations meeting, a group of powerful entities make their way through a portal. Cindy, Nox, a necromancer and Grendel are rampaging through the UN meeting room, demanding money and a jet. This prompts the US government to assemble a team of Realm Knights comprising of Sela Mathers, Shang, Hecate, Hook, Red and Robyn Hood. These powerful beings are trusted with saving the day and–of course–looking good while doing it.
Team-ups are becoming all the rage these days and there are hints of The Avengers in this issue. Shand seems to draw on the film by uniting the Realm Knights (with costumes and code names a la X-Men: First Class) in a similar fashion: use them to get out of a jam and kill them when they get out of line. The comparison is readily apparent (fairly or unfairly) and drives the entire issue.
While the end game of the one-shot may be to set up the new ongoing series, there are some parts that seem a little off. For instance, Cindy just wants a jet and money, but the reason is never explained. The government agents bring in Robyn Hood in cuffs, but then don’t want to leave the scene as they don’t want to leave “soldiers” behind. Some of the dialogue is a little corny as well, with some panels losing effectiveness with some line of dialogue inserted.
Pencils by Salonga and Souza are actually pretty good. They handle the action sequences very well and let the characters showcase their powers. Panel layouts are standard, with a few insets splashed in. The transition from one artist to the next looks pretty obvious as well, with the styles offering slightly different styles. The first half of the book looks more refined while the second half of the book looks a little scratchier. One isn’t necessarily better than the other, but the difference is noticeable.
Zenescope’s universe is poised to go crazy this year, so it only makes sense that they get a super team to help reign in all the madness. The team of Realm Knights looks to be formidable enough, comprising of some of Zenescope’s heavy-hitters. The one-shot introduction issue does feature some awkward dialogue and transitions and character motivations that are erratic. It’s worth checking out if you want a bit more backstory for the Unleashed storyline or you like any (or all) of the characters involved.
Grimm Fairy Tales Realm Knights One-Shot is in stores now.