Before reading fellow AiPT columnist David Brooke’s reviews of the previous issues of Oz, I never had any inclination to read a Zenescope book. But curiosity got the best of me, and Dave helped catch me up on the miniseries before I read this latest issue. But the question still remains: is it good?
Oz #4 (Zenescope Entertainment)
Before we start the discussion of the issue proper, take a look at this cover, courtesy of artist Mike Capprotti:
Hey, kids… BOOBS!
That’s the image on the cover that I received, “Cover B.” A ridiculous image, yes, but at least it’s not as bad as Cover D by Paolo Pantalena:
Now why on Earth aren’t more women reading comics?
To be fair, Zenescope does offer covers that aren’t all about T&A, like Cover E by Ale Garza:
I’ve always wanted the Tin Man to go straight-up Terminator.
But still, the vast majority of the covers that I’ve seen from Zenescope in general look like this issue’s Cover A by Ken Lashley:
Why do so many comic book heroines look like they’ve been trained to fight by the same stripper?
I’m bringing up all these covers to make a point. We’ve all been taught not to “judge a book by its cover,” and from a storytelling standpoint, that tends to be true. I’ve read plenty of great books with terrible covers, and vice versa.
But from a marketing standpoint, it’s a bit more complicated. Publishers choose to print covers that they believe will best appeal to the target audience. Sure, there’s always the hope that they can gain new readers outside of the target demographics, but it would be foolish to adorn Oz #4 with a cover of, say, Scarecrow sitting contemplatively on a stump in a quiet forest. Comic book covers in particular rarely give any sort of preview for readers in terms of plot details, but they set a tone and speak to potential consumers.
And what most of these covers say is: “If you like watching hyper-sexualized female icons of folklore and the public domain fighting monsters in bloody retellings of classic fairy tales, you will love this comic.”
I’m not even trying to be facetious. Some people like this sort of thing, and I don’t mean to judge those that do. There’s clearly an audience for these kinds of comics, but it’s an audience that I am not part of. That makes this a very difficult comic for me to review. It’s like I’m judging a cheese competition, despite knowing how much I hate cheese.
In all fairness, once you stop looking at the cover and read the story inside Oz #4 is relatively tame, compared both to the covers and to the previous issues. Written by Zenescope President and CCO Joe Brusha (who co-created with Zenescope Eic Ralph Tedesco the Grimm Fairy Tales line of which Oz is a part), this issue of Oz seems to focus mainly on the ersatz Cowardly Lion and his info dump of a “tragic” back story. As a result, pencillers Rolando Di Sessa and Miguel Mendonca don’t have as many excuses to draw witches in suggestive poses, or Dorothy’s clothes (which she clearly bought just to piss off Auntie Em) coming closer, ever closer, to falling off, although the artists certainly take the opportunities when they can.
The biggest problem with this comic is not that it’s too sexy or too violent, but that it’s too bland. I didn’t remotely care about any of the characters or what would happen to them (except maybe the Tin Man, because if there’s one thing that Frank L. Baum’s original Oz stories lack, it’s a Terminator).
Joe Brusha’s writing is riddled with clichés, both in terms of plot and dialogue. The pencils by Di Sessa and Mendonca are functional at best, though at worse their faces fail to convey proper emotions, and juvenile depictions of women aside, they have a flawed sense of emotion and body language. Inker Glauber Matos goes a bit overboard with the shadows, but that’s probably not his fault, given what Zenescope seems to think constitutes a “dark” and “mature” story. Colorist Grosieta doesn’t have much to work with either, in that regard. Jim Campbell actually seems like a pretty decent letterer — he has some interesting tricks up his sleeve, yet he uses them sparingly enough that it doesn’t disrupt the little flow the story has—but until he gets better assignments, it’s doubtful that he’ll get any recognition for it.
If you’re a part of what seems to be the target audience for Zenescope comics, it’s hard to imagine that Oz #4 will give you what you’re looking for. If you’re just hoping for a compelling story with believable characters, you’ll be even more disappointed.
- Doesn’t rely as much on mindless sex and violence as you may expect.
- Badass Robot Tin Man could make a sweet action figure.
- If you’re looking for a comic that’s as raunchy as its cover, you won’t find it here.
- Mediocre-at-best artwork.
- Plot and dialogue is strictly by the numbers.
Is It Good?
Not by my standards. And probably not by yours, either.