Review - Steam Engines of Oz #1

If you're off to see the wizard, there's a good chance you're off to see the Wizard of Oz. Did you know there's more to Emerald City than just the man behind the curtain? Such as that the Tin Man is a king with an army? Or the Witch of the North lives in the cold and doesn't like engineers? That's all found in Steam Engines of Oz #1 from Arcana Comics.

The first issue is written by Erik Hendrix and Sean Patrick O'Reilly, with art by Yannis Roumboulias, colors by Chandran Ponnusamy and letters by Amanda Hendrix.

Victoria Wright is an intelligent engineer tasked with keeping the machines of Oz running. She's joined beneath the Emerald City by Phadrig Digg, Howard the Wanderer and a Munchkin named Gromit. The three of them are "guests" who feel they've overstayed their welcome and are fighting to find a way out of the city's bowels. They need to find Scarecrow, which means they have to find about thirty (exaggeration) other people first.

The story by Hendrix and O'Reilly is actually quite inventive in how it gives new life to storied characters. The Tin Man is something of a reviled despot, perversely thinking that those who run the engines are there by choice. There are packs of lion-men roaming the jungle, descendants of the Cowardly Lion and ferocious warriors. It's inevitable that other familiar characters will also be on hand in a variety of new ways as well. That variety of characters may be one of the drawbacks of the book.

It appears that the story is gearing up to be a series of fetch quests so to speak. The escapees want to find the Scarecrow, but first they have to find the Wizard because only he knows where the Scarecrow is. The Wizard's location is a mystery as well, which means they have to find the Munchkins to find out where the Wizard is (and subsequently the Scarecrow). It all seems a little superfluous and hopefully more time is spent with the Tin Man and Witch of the North, as both characters appear to be villains who the reader should have the chance to get to know better.

Roumboulias' art is actually quite sharp. What really stands out is a few of the pages have an entire background scene taking up the entire page, with action panels inset within that background. It lends something of a continuity to the scene, giving the reader something to grasp in terms of getting their bearings with the setting. There's also a good mix of setting in the book, showcasing what has to be a widespread geography in the land of Oz.

Tales of Oz are those that have been around for a while and really haven't been altered much, so it's nice to see a book like Steam Engines of Oz #1 come along and offer some fresh perspective. Victoria seems to be a very important player in all of the proceedings, but the reason for that still remains to be seen. Still though, the hope that the Tin Man gets more time to devoted to him as a somewhat deranged king would be very interesting.

Steam Engines of Oz #1 is available in June (Diamond Preorder Code APR130795).