I kind of fell off the Oz horse after a very enthusiastic hop on earlier this year. Following a viewing of Oz: The Great and Powerful, I started accumulating Oz in various media, but it was the Marvel adaptations by Eric Shanower and Skottie Young that I've been most keen about acquiring. I'm keen on the hardcovers, but I've been trying not to buy them until I'm ready to read them and Ozma of Oz has been sitting at my bedside for about 5 months now. Every other week or so my daughter will come into my room early in the morning to wake somebody up to feed her breakfast and she will mull about until someone complies with her request. During these mulling periods she invariably spies the book and says "Papa, are you done with this one yet? When can I take it into my room?"
Well, with bit of breathing room this weekend at the in-laws and I was able to finally dive in. What I've come to appreciate about Marvel's adaptations is the passion the creators have for the material. It's so evident that Eric Shanower isn't just an uber-fan, but a bit of an Oz historian, actively researching the background of each of the books, the influences and the many adaptations. Shanower is obviously keen on presenting as faithful an adaptation of Baum's books as possible, and as evidenced by their continued presence on the adaptations (they're currently on The Emerald City of Oz, the sixth of Baum's books), both he and Young are keen on seeing through their adaptations (though it seems Marvel is restricting how faithful their adaptations can be by limiting the issue count now to 5, down from 6, down from 8).
Shanower states in his foreward that Ozma of Oz has long been his favourite Oz books, and I can see why. It's so packed with clever confrontations, neat character concepts, returning favourite characters, the broadening of the Oz mythos and landscape, some very witty exchanges, and Dorothy returning. I haven't read what comes beyond this one, but I absolutely love the film Return to Oz, and it's just tremendously pleasing to see the origins of some of my favourite sequences from the film, but also to see how much grander in scope they were. Return to Oz actually combined Ozma of Oz and The Marvelous Land of Oz quite organically, but having now read them both I think the sequences that Return borrows from them are generally better in the books. At the same time the film trims the fat, and there's a lot of fat in these stories, so many conversational digressions that are at once tedious and part of the series charm.
The "choosing the ornament" sequence here, and as adapted in Return To Oz, is one of my favourite fairy tale concepts ever. I'm wondering if there are mythological inspirations or if this was something completely out of Baum's imagination that has since penetrated as a genre convention (see Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade for example). It only gets better here, as it goes on for longer, since the travelling party/army is so huge (and Ozma's army in this book is so thoroughly entertaining, and the Hungry Tiger is a great addition to the cast that I was unfamiliar with previously), and while longer doesn't always make it better, it's just more of my favourite scene...how could I not like that?