Review: The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West #1

The Wizard of Oz reimagined as a western.  This should feel trite, but there's something really charming about it.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

The Legend of Oz: Wicked West

The cards were stacked against me enjoying Tom Hutchison's The Legend of Oz: Wicked West #1.  For starters, while I respect and admire The Wizard of Oz, I'm not a particularly devoted fan of it, and I haven't been particularly keen on seeking out its twisty prequel musical Wicked, either.  Also, there's the notion that reimagining classic stories in different settings (such as Macbeth in 1930s gangster times, Batman populated entirely by your college buddies and the like) is generally a fun exercise for movie nerds sitting around a Denny's at 3am, but generally starts feeling trite and forced when you really commit to the ideas enough to craft an entire project around it.  So putting Dorothy Gale in a mysterious western setting riding a horse named Toto should seem like a cute thought that will likely get old after being a bit too 'on the nose.' 

However, there's a charm at work in Big Dog Ink's new series that can be heavily credited to the lovely art of Alisson Borges, as it could have easily gone the wrong way – in fact, there was a 75 percent chance it would have, judging by the four alternate covers.  See, in this version of the story, Gale (as she calls herself) is old enough to draw the eye of men (and women, judging by the ladies of the evenin' who proposition her in a saloon) but young enough to be grilled about whether she should be drinkin' hooch.  To all of the other artists who contributed variant covers, this translated to "let's sex up Dorothy."  One showcases her cleavage, another her butt, and the third on the scantily-clad hookers hiding from the giant flying gorillas.  Only the one done by Borges himself, the one shown cropped above and in its entirety below, has that breathtaking "let's have some fun with this" sweetness about it that makes you want to check into this book and hop along for the ride.  Borges knows full well that putting her in that hat and giving her that knowing little smirk makes her plenty sexy without resorting to the crass.

Maybe I'm just a sucker for westerns, thanks to Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti giving me an appreciation for Jonah Hex, or maybe thanks to Clint Eastwood being goddamned awesome throughout his whole career, but watching Gale being quick on the draw with her ruby-handled twin revolvers and trying to follow a yellow brick road that's been torn apart and looted for its gold has me feeling that Hutchison is riding on just the right side of that line between clever and "clever."  As this series presses on, of course, it could stumble on to the other side very easily.  The scared lion wearing emo clown make-up ain't the best sign, but the Tin Man transmogrifying into a mysterious old-timer in black wearing a lawman's tin star is an interesting idea, even if he comes off as a little creepy. 

It's still a magical world they're in (hence the flying gorillas and the made-up lion, natch), but it's also spare and reveling in the traditional western beats as much as it's enjoying the Oz stuff.  We're dropped into the middle of Gale's journey – after she's met with "the little people" who told her to follow the road in the first place, which means either Hutchison had no ideas for what to do with them or they'll show up later on when we least expect it.  It's also not going to be all that saccharine sweet, given Gale having the guts to shoot a threatening stranger straight in the face to show she means business.  The fact that she's freely talking out loud to Toto to give us all the exposition we need is a bit iffy, but in this context, it works well enough to shrug off and still enjoy.

Dorothy as a badass might seem like a stretch, but that's just one aspect of her, and she really has to steel herself to pull that aspect off.  Plus, the blue of her outfit brings her a hint of a Lone Ranger vibe, which is just one more reason to find The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West #1 charming.  Hutchison is thankfully not trying to shove 'cool and edgy' down our throats as many might (see the McFarlane Toys 'Twisted Land of Oz' stuff for an example of that).  Instead, he's giving us a fun western tale.with an otherworldly quality, and it's worth checking out to see if you'll hop along as well.


Legend of Oz: The Wicked West #1