Friend of Dorothy #1 review

If you're like me and can't watch The Wizard of Oz without suffering weeks of nightmares involving flying monkeys and cackling green women, this latest spin on the favourite tale could open a whole new seam of bad dreams. For it feature scarecrows that have more in common with J-horror than Ray Bolger.

I swear, the straw men who crawl through the clunkily named Scott-John's window are straight out of The Ring. Luckily his previous visitor, Gorlindo, Good Witch and fan of all things pink, has equipped him with a magical axe to take out the creatures known as 'Scrows'.

He's also been given super-powers, as the designated new champion of Oz, the official Friend of Dorothy.

Yes, somehow writer Brian Andersen, artist Neftali Centeno and colourist/letterer Falecia Woods have contrived to make the Wizard of Oz even camper, swapping farmgirl Dorothy Gale for a flamboyant gay male, the Ruby Slippers for scarlet disco boots and yappy Toto for talking Dodo. And it's Dodo who's going to be Scott-John's guide as he bids to deliver Oz from an as-yet-unrevealed crisis, and so save his own world.

This first of three issues sees Scott-John go from would-be suicide - he's broken up over a break-up - to nascent hero able to transcend his appalling new outfit and be the saviour of two worlds. By instalment's end he's ready to right wrongs in a far-off land. So long as he can stay on his flying broomstick ...

I'm not a huge fan of reimaginings of L Frank Baum's world. To me, The Wiz is a case of 'ease on down the roadkill', while the saccharine political correctness of Wicked makes me want to stamp on a Munchkin. But I enjoyed Andersen's script, which goes its own way rather than opting for easy parallels with the original stories. Bossy Dodo is a nice addition, and should become more fun now that his initial role as Exposition Dog has been fulfilled.

Centeno's illustrations, while less polished than the art seen in books from the major comics companies, is good-natured and carries the story along nicely, while Woods' colors range from bubblegum to naturalistic in an appropriate manner. My favourite sequence is the fireworks-riddled entrance of Gorlindo.

As a bonus, the comic features an 8pp strip written by Andersen - creator of Newsarama's So Super-Duper series - and illustrated by Jon Macy. I Am Moxie Marvel, originally submitted to DC's Zuda line, is another gender reversal tale - this time bullied high school student Chance Wittsome (!) inherits the powers, mission and, God help him, costume of legendary superheroine Moxie Marvel.

I actually enjoyed this more than the lead strip. Partially, that's because I'm a superhero fan, not an Oz guy, but it's also because Jon Macy's deceptively simple artwork channels a story they're obviously passionate about, brilliantly. And the Zuda format - half-page strips - makes for a tight, pacy read.

Oz aficionados (especially gay ones, although I may have entered the realm of tautology here) will likely get the most out of this comic, but even doubters like me should find something to enjoy.