The O.Z. #1 is written by David Pepose, illustrated by Ruben Rojas, colored by Whitney Cogar, and lettered by DC Hopkins. After a tour of duty in Iraq, soldier Dorothy Gale returns to her home in Kansas to take care of her ailing grandmother. However, she struggles to fit back into society as well as lingering PTSD. One evening, a tornado sweeps through Kansas and deposits Dorothy in the land of Oz—which is now a war-torn hellscape split into different factions. Dorothy joins forces with several denizens of Oz, including a heavily mechanized version of the Tin Man, in order to bring peace to Oz as well as herself.
This series marks another high-concept comic from Pepose, who put a post-apocalyptic spin on the Boy Scouts of America with his Scout’s Honor miniseries for AfterShock Comics. While Scout’s Honor dealt with the damaging effects of toxic masculinity, The O.Z. deals with how wars can leave scars both physical and mental on soldiers.
Dorothy is haunted by memories of her tour that have her bolting awake at night and even contemplating suicide at one point. Pepose also uses his seemingly vast imagination to deliver a new take on the world of Oz, which leads to multiple characters getting an overhaul in the same way that Sword Stone Table revamped the legend of King Arthur. If you thought the Wicket Witch of the West’s flying monkeys were scary before, you need to check out this comic. And that’s not even going into what happens to another beloved Oz character; I never saw that twist coming, but in the context of the comic and the original story it’s a welcome surprise.
This new approach to Oz also extends to the art, with Rojas giving each character a new redesign. The Tin Man, who is the most prominent character to appear, has the best design by far. He is now a towering metal behemoth, with a steampunk-esque look and an ax that bears more resemblance to Thor’s Stormbreaker than his trademark wood-chopping ax. Rojas also draws rather nightmarish images that symbolize the mental turmoil Dorothy is going through; one panel features a drone transforming into a flaming demon, streaking right at the reader. Cogar’s color art is rather muted, which lends gravity to the war sequences. Oz, once a bright and sparkling world, is now caked in a layer of dark yellow dust. It isn’t lost on me that Oz’s current state bears resemblance to the time Dorothy spent in Iraq; from the same bombed-out shelters and even Hopkins depicting the citizens of Oz speaking in another language using braces to depict the Ozian dialect.
The O.Z. #1 uses the familiar fantasy landscape of The Wizard of Oz to explore the horrors of war, resulting in a unique and compelling tale. With the first issue being successfully funded on Kickstarter, I hope the remaining two issues are fully funded as well because this is such a great concept and I need to see the rest of the story.
The O.Z. #1
The O.Z. #1 uses the familiar fantasy landscape of The Wizard of Oz to explore the horrors of war, resulting in a unique and compelling tale
Collier “CJ” Jennings is a freelance reporter and film critic living in Seattle. He uses his love of comics and film/TV to craft reviews and essays on genre projects. He is also a host on Into the Spider-Cast.