The Steam Engines of Oz #1 is a unique twist on the fantasy world created by L. Frank Baum. Once again, readers are swept away to another world that is spooky and whimsical at the same time. The great and powerful land of Oz has been wonderfully re-imagined with a cool steampunk update.
WRITTEN BY: Erik Hendrix & Sean Patrick O’ Reilly
ART BY: Yannis Roumboulias
PUBLISHER: Arcana Comics
RELEASE: June 2013
Raised beneath Emerald City, Victoria Wright has always kept the steam machines of Oz running. Victoria has never wished to escape because she never thought about leaving her job. But then, the flying monkeys showed her what the world above was like. For the first time in her very life, Victoria’s eyes are truly open. When she returns back home, Victoria is falsely accused as a traitor. With the machines constantly growing and evolving, Victoria realizes she must bring back the magic to Emerald City. She must escape from the place she only knew and travel deep into the magical forest of Oz.
What I really enjoyed about this retelling by Erik Hendrix and Sean Patrick O’ Reilly is how they have made steampunk versions of classic characters. The Tin Man is this giant robot with a booming voice. The Pack, an aggressive and merciless animal herd, serve the Cowardly Lion as their leader because he showed no fear. Probably the most surprising, the Munchkins are now beer-guzzling, tough guys with itchy trigger fingers. Nobody, not even the vicious Pack, wants to deal with the Munchkins.
I really enjoyed how the narrative is told from Victoria Wright, who is a simple mechanic thrown into an extraordinary situation. Victoria doesn’t know what she is doing most of time because she has never set foot outside her home. In her coming-of-age tale, she is learning about her true self under the darkest of circumstances. The narrative has an interesting metaphor for Victoria’s transition into adulthood and Emerald City’s resistance towards the progressive future.
Yannis Roumboulias provides the glossary artwork for the steampunk element of the narrative. In their character designs, the Pack is wearing black leather outfits and have necklaces made of bones. Just by looking at them, you can interpret the Pack as a motorcycle gang, but without the vehicle. The Tin Man has exhaust pipes connected to his back, which blows clouds of smoke above his head.
Roumboulias always captures a look of shock and awe on Victoria’s facial expressions. In one panel, she is mesmerized by the swarm of colorful butterflies. In the next, she is horribly frightened by the lion as he crushes the butterfly with his bare hand. Victoria wants to see what the outside world has to offer her, but she doesn’t realize there is also danger lurking in the corner.
Less kid-friendly and darker toned, “The Steam Engines of Oz” #1 establishes the steampunk vision of Emerald City and its citizens. I look forward to seeing what The Scarecrow, The Good Witch, and Toto look like in their steampunk version.
Reviewed by – Jorge Solis