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Ontology on the gone!

The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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07/10/2008 Archived Entry: "Manhwa review: Dorothy of Oz, Volumes 1 & 2"

Dorothy of Oz, Vol. 1 & Vol. 2
by Son Hee-Joon
English Translation by Nahee Jung
English Adaptation by Kevin M. Kilgore
Udon Entertainment

Review by Tom Good

This Dorothy comes from Korea, not Kansas, and insists her name is Mara Shin, not Dorothy. But many familiar elements of the Oz story are here, cleverly transformed with some science fiction elements. The Tin Man is a cyborg, the Scarecrow is a clone, and the Lion is a "mutant chimera." Dorothy can transform into a powerful witch, and her witch form happens to look like a voluptuous, sexy superhero with a fashionable and revealing costume. Unfortunately she has a lot to learn about how to actually use magic.

Son Hee-Joon integrates these new elements well and lets them drive the story, so they come across as more than just gimmicks. This new direction for the story reminded me of the TV mini-series Tin Man, in which the Dorothy character was called "DG" and the land was called the "Outer Zone," or "the O.Z." While I enjoyed that version too, I found that I preferred the manga-styled Dorothy of Oz.

The art in this series is really cute, charming, and fun. All of the main characters look appealing and are easily distinguishable from each other. One of my favorite pages in Volume 2 shows the characters talking in pictures. Instead of "word balloons," the balloons contain other pictures. This technique not only looks cool, but it condenses a long conversation down to a single page, while allowing the reader to quickly understand the essence of the discussion. And throughout the book, the drawings include many funny little touches, like the fact that the brunette Mara Shin becomes a blond when transformed into a witch.

I'm not that fond of "upskirt" shots in comics, but I must say that this series has one of the funniest ones I've seen. The first time Dorothy transforms into a witch, she stomps her foot and creates a kind of magical explosion. With a "Fwaaashh!" sound effect, the sheer power of the magical energy lifts Dorothy's skirt, and the skirt of the girl standing beside her, almost like the updraft from the subway vent lifting Marilyn Monroe's skirt in Some Like It Hot. The facial expressions in this panel are priceless.

In another example of the book's mind-twisting humor, one character complains, "Are you color blind?! You can't tell ink from blood?" The other replies, "It was an easy mistake. It's a black 'n' white comic, ink and blood look the same." What makes this even more brilliant is that the first panel actually is in color, with the text in blood red, while the panel containing the response is on the next page in black and white. Of course, this transition between color and black and white recalls the original film The Wizard of Oz, which was partly in black and white and partly in Technicolor.

In at least one respect, the English translation of this book is probably even funnier than the original. The Scarecrow constantly mixes up his words, saying things like "odors" when he means "orders" and "roast" for "lost." So many of his lines look at first like they must be incredibly incompetent translations, like the jumbled subtitles of an old martial arts movie. This made his lines doubly funny, both for his mix-ups and for the fact that they turn out to be his mistakes and not the translator's after all.

All in all, Dorothy of Oz is a fantastic series that I highly recommend.

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