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I have never been a huge fan of The Wizard of Oz. For me, Alice in Wonderland has always been the more interesting tale of a young girl sent to a strange and mysterious land. However, that does not diminish the concept itself, nor the creativity that went into the original books, nor the many adaptations that have followed. There have been a ton of Oz adaptations over the years, from The Wiz to Tin Man, and No Place Like Home is the newest to grace the world of comic books. Let’s see how it stacks up.
I will say up front that I have not read the first two issues in this series. However, this is part three of five in the first story arc, so I am hoping it is safe to assume I have not missed too much. As near as I can tell, the story, as it is now, is set in Kansas on one particularly bad night. Several of the townsfolk, including the sheriff, have been brutally attacked by an ape. Elsewhere, two young women from out of town, but who used to be locals it seems, have been forced to dig up two graves by a crazy old drunk. The graves belong to the parents of one of the two girls, Dee. Is Dee short for Dorothy? We’ll probably never know.
If the cover wasn’t indication enough, page one makes it clear that this is not one of the bright and cheery Oz adaptations. There is real violence, real danger, and people having a real bad day. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the story is currently still set in Kansas. While I am not sure what I expected before reading this book, when I hear that there is an adaptation of Oz, I tend to get the impression it will be set in Oz. Kansas is generally less exciting in my experience. The fact that the author, Angelo Tirotto, is choosing to ground the story in realism so far and seems to be casting Oz as more of an outside invading force gives a lot more dramatic weight to the events unfolding. The characters are still functioning in reality and are beset upon by this strangeness they do not understand yet. It actually reminded me of The Walking Dead in a way, except much more localized.
Unfortunately, this interesting scenario for the story was, in my opinion, the best part. Everything else was very much by the numbers. The two girls, Dee and Lizzie, are the classic fish-out-of-water city girls who get more than they bargained for in the creepy mid-west countryside. Some minor characters are injured, so the audience knows the danger is real, and the sheriff is going to come to their rescue. Of course, the sheriff also has the beginnings of the mentor character in the classic hero’s journey, but that role has yet to be realized.
There are some revelations that come out about some of the characters, but without having read the previous issues, this falls pretty flat. This is not necessarily the fault of those making the comic; it is simply a story telling decision. However, it seems like little effort is put into making this an inviting issue for first time readers, such as myself. I simply do not know these characters very well, so when something surprising happens to them, the context is just not there. Reading this book as a stand alone issue and not as a continuing story, that is an unavoidable flaw. If the story had been presented in a way that got me to look for the previous issues so that I could see the whole story, then that would have been a major victory. Unfortunately, there was just not enough here to get me interested in the characters that much.
Richard Jordan’s art is generally quite effective here. As I said earlier, the first page gives a very clear impression of what the tone of this book is going to be and that tone is held consistently throughout the book. Characters and settings are drawn realistically and with heavy shadows. I was especially impressed with the design of the character Lizzie. It seemed like her character design told me more about who she was than the dialogue did and the facial expressions she displays, from frightened, to thoughtful, to worried, were really well drawn and a large success for the visual storytelling. That is not to say the visual storytelling was entirely successful. I have no idea why a monkey is playing with marbles in a cave and those scenes, among one or two others, seemed oddly intrusive. In fairness though, I may simply lack the context for those scenes, but that forces me to question once again whether that lack of context is my fault or an oversight by the creators.
Overall, No Place Like Home #3 is a solid book. It felt a lot more like a generic thriller than I expected, but I can see the seeds being planted for more of the Oz elements to take hold and that is genuinely exciting. As a final note, it does seem worth mentioning that there is a letters column at the end of the issue with the author answering in character as Lizzie. While the answers are not as off-the-wall amusing as a Deadpool letters column, I do appreciate the extra effort that went into it and Lizzie does come across as a genuinely cool character. If you like thrillers, cool chicks, and Wizard of Oz, then consider checking this one out.