fantasy and science fiction book reviewsTales from Oz (Vol. 1) by Joe Brusha

TALES FROM OZGrimm Fairy Tales presents Tales From Oz (Vol. 1), unfortunately, was a bit of a disappointment. I was interested in reading the four short stories about the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, The Scarecrow, and Toto. The general storyline is written by Joe Brusha, but four separate authors took over the task of taking his plot and writing the individual stories.  The background of this version of Oz is told to us at the start of the collection: There was an evil sorceress Zamora who once tried to take over Oz. She has been defeated, but now her daughters, Lynessa and Zinna, are attempting to rule over Oz. All four stories take place within this context.

The first story is about Nicholas the Woodsman and how he came to be the Tin Man. This story had potential, but the artwork was very much in the T&A fantasy tradition of Witchblade. However, while I like the writing in Witchblade and am a big fan of Ron Marz‘s Witchblade stories in spite of the art, the Tin Man’s story doesn’t rise above the artwork. We find out Nicholas did not rebel against Lynessa because he had no family, nobody at all, to defend or worry about. So he kept to himself and continued his trade since Lynessa needed his services. When he finally meets a woman and falls in love, he comes into conflict with Lynessa. Though I won’t give details of the love story, I will say the obvious: It ends with Lynessa ripping out his heart and turning him into a Tin Man. This final scene also bothers me because the Tin Man looks like Cyborg from DC. To me, this story was a one-star comic.

The second story, about the Cowardly Lion, is the best story in the collection. It’s interesting, it’s thematic, it’s complex, and though I still don’t love the art, it doesn’t feature bondage-style clothing on women. Of course, that would be difficult to show on the lions anyway.  This tale is a coming-of-age story about the Cowardly Lion, Thorne, growing up as a young boy with his brother, Thane. They are sons of the leader of the Kavari Pride. Thorne’s father and brother dislike that he loves poetry, flowers, dancing, and beauty more than fighting. Thane mocks Thorne and calls him coward, but Thorne replies: “Is it cowardly to prefer dancing to fighting? Is it cowardly to want to write poetry rather than treaties?” Thane responds, “Poetry and Dancing are for women and cowards.” When Thane and Thorne get a little older, they fall in love at the same time with the young and attractive Priya. What really frustrates Thane is that Thorne is the winner not only in love, but also in their practice duels. However, once they are older, Thane forces Thorne into a real duel. This excellent coming-of-age story has another layer, since the Father tells the young boys that the leader of the Pride, no matter how much he loves his family, still has to put the entire Pride above personal family if there is ever a conflict. This lesson will be important to Thorne as he gets older. I thought this was a four-star story.

The story of the Scarecrow is the second best story. Bartleby is an intelligent young man in love. Everyone in the land trusts him, so he is put in a difficult spot when Lynessa and Zinna ask him to speak to everyone in the land of Oz and convince them to give loyalty to the sisters in order to have their lives spared and to be able to continue on with their lives. Bartleby does not trust them, but it is up to him to choose between asking the leaders throughout Oz to join in violent rebellion or to give their loyalty to the sisters in exchange for peace. His decision and the actions that follow from it lead him to become the Scarecrow. I thought it was a three-star story.

The final story is about Toto and is called “Good Dog: Featuring Toto.” I found it very confusing and wonder if it depends upon some previous knowledge for full appreciation. Grimm Fairy Tales is a longer series of which Tales from Oz is not the first volume (it is just the first volume of this new, related series called Tales from Oz). Perhaps fans of that series will enjoy reading about Toto. I would give it one star.

The collection ended with a teaser for another volume in this larger series about Oz. It returned to the T&A art of the Tin Man story, and since it was about Dorothy, she was placed in a revealing “farm” outfit. I think Daisy Duke would have been shocked and embarrassed for her. I tried to read the first few pages, but couldn’t bear to keep reading. I gave up: D.N.F. (Did Not Finish).

If you are a fan of this type of art and don’t have high expectations for storyline, you might enjoy this book. Or if you are already a fan of the series, perhaps you’ll want to read it. I am not looking forward to reading anymore in the Grimm Fairy Tales universe, but perhaps the other stories are better. After all, I am a big fan of Ron Marz’s Witchblade even though I am not a fan of much of the art. Perhaps the other Grimm Fairy Tales books are well-written, even if the art resembles the art in Tales From Oz. I’ll try to keep an open mind about these other books, but this collection barely got two stars and that’s because of the decent writing in two of the stories.


  • Brad Hawley

    BRAD HAWLEY, who's been with us since April 2012, earned his PhD in English from the University of Oregon with areas of specialty in the ethics of literature and rhetoric. Since 1993, he has taught courses on The Beat Generation, 20th-Century Poetry, 20th-Century British Novel, Introduction to Literature, Shakespeare, and Public Speaking, as well as various survey courses in British, American, and World Literature. He currently teaches Crime Fiction, Comics, and academic writing at Oxford College of Emory University where his wife, Dr. Adriane Ivey, also teaches English. They live with their two young children outside of Atlanta, Georgia.