A Review of David Pepose's The O.Z. #2
The O.Z. #2
David Pepose words
Ruben Rojas art
Whitney Cogar colors
DC Hopkins letters
Released via Kickstarter
Realizing you’re not in Kansas anymore? Steady yourself and peep the solicit:
Decades ago, when a young girl defeated the Wicked Witch of the West, she said farewell to the magical land of Oz… but unwittingly plunged the country into years of brutal civil war. But a generation later, the name of Dorothy Gale lives on in her granddaughter, an Iraq war veteran grappling with disillusionment and PTSD — until a tornado strands her in the war-torn battlefield known only as The O.Z. Forced to navigate warring factions led by the Tin Soldier, the Scarecrow, and the Courageous Lion, Dorothy must face her past and embark on a dangerous quest for the all-powerful Silver Slippers if she ever hopes to bring peace to the Occupied Zone.
“ . . . buckle up, Jungle Book”
No one hustles like David Pepose. He’s been on every podcast. He keeps plots up his sleeves for rainy days. He put out one of the best books of 2021, Scout’s Honor from AfterShock. You can find him in various anthologies (Cthulhu Is Hard to Spell, Project Big Hype & Nightmare Theater). He’s even found himself a gig at Marvel writing The Savage Avengers, and you don’t get gigs like that unless you put in the work. His titles are full of strong narrative beats and lots of heart. While interviewing him, I called it the ‘Pepose Charm’ infused within his various narratives. His books are rife with complexity and dramatics. The man knows how to comic book, and I find it interesting that one of his best titles has no publisher.
The O.Z. just released its second issue on Kickstarter, and it’s one of the best books I’ve read in a hot minute. The narrative is heavy, weighted by the evils of war. As a reader, you’re dodging shrapnel between the panels. You feel the heat as the land of Oz succumbs to fires so hot it melts the Yellow Brick Road.
It’s a double-length issue, and I found myself forgetting to breathe until my body got mad at me. My eyes kept drying out from refusing to blink until I was able to take in all the pages that Ruben Rojas and Whitney Cogar worked so hard to produce. Like Dorothy in a tornado, I was swept away to a land of magic and wonder only to find myself shocked when it was full of death and despair.
This isn’t the Oz you know. It’s an Oz tainted by chaos and greed. The skies are blackened from smoke rising from the loss of innocence. Tears and screams echo throughout this fictional world and bring a very hard, very real truth to its audience: war is hell; it’s inescapable, and no one is safe from its devilish grasp.
I didn’t think it would be possible for Pepose to ramp up the drama after the excellent first issue, but he does it flawlessly. There’s more action. More struggle. More Toto. Pepose puts these fictitious icons through the ringer. He knocks them down and makes it hard for them to find their footing. He makes the word “hero” count for something. Glory never comes lightly within these pages, but in the brief glimpses of hope, you’ll find yourself throwing your fists into the air and cheering for the various protagonists.
That’s the sign of good writing: when you can’t separate yourself from the fiction any longer, when those lines get blurred and you find yourself in this magical existence that can’t be real but hits a little too close to home. Great writers can only do so much, and luckily, the talent doesn’t stop with the script.
Ruben Rojas is a warrior. The linework is like nothing else on shop stands right now. The action sequences flow like a strong current that’s ready to pull you under. Character designs are beyond impressive. The Tin Man shines through his brutality. The Lion Prince claws his way into your memory. Jack Pumpkinhead, a fierce, talented new villain, will annihilate your safe space in every panel he commands.
Whitney Cogar’s colors bring a sadistic vibe to these pages. Cogar is excellent at controlling the mood. Unfortunately, for the reader, that mood is heavy and brash. The world is burning. Hope is lost. The magics of this fantastical place are sinister, and the color palette throughout this massive issue keeps you on edge. You’ll find yourself gasping for air and wiping the sweat from your forehead as the tension of the narrative twists you into knots.
DC Hopkins, a letterer who needs no introduction, keeps the panels fierce. The visual aspects are controlled expertly, and you’ll never find yourself in a crowded panel aching for clarity. Hopkins leaves the readers feeling the dialog, not just reading it, and when the Prince of Lions roars, your ears will ring.
Make no mistake, this creative team knows how to manipulate the emotions of their readers.
It’s amazing to me that an issue with so many successes isn’t on stands at comic shops. I’d like to think that there are a handful of publishers kicking themselves for turning down this pitch, but I also find it empowering that, even when someone tells you no or doesn’t believe in your dream, you can head to one of the various sources for crowdfunding and tell your story.
The O.Z. #2 had almost a thousand backers. It raised over forty thousand dollars. It cemented itself as a success before anyone ever got the chance to read it. That’s power. Now that people are ruffling its pages, its agency is intensifying. Its stance is rooted in the halls of great comic books, and you couldn’t push this tough bastard over even if you tried your hardest.
I’m not sure when this comic will be purchasable, but I’d recommend keeping an eye on David Pepose’s shop here, and when the war drums pound signaling the campaign of the third issue, you best heed their call. We’ll need backers and bodies to stop the terror of straw men.
Don’t be left behind.
And now for some housekeeping…
Blake’s Buzz episode #32 dropped today. New York Times bestselling author and illustrator Jarrett J. Krosoczka and I talk about his hilarious and amazing Lunch Lady comics. We also talk about growing up nerdy, The Batman, and why it’s incredibly fucking dumb to ban books. He was such a pleasure to interview, and I’m super proud of this episode. You can download it anywhere podcasts can be downloaded, or you can click here to go to my Megaphone page.
Please check it out.
If you haven’t already, the 7th episode of Blake’s Buzz Live is available to watch on YouTube. Joel Lolar, AJ O. Mason, Benjamin Morse and Todd Matthy hung out with me and talked up their comics, all of which are totally worth checking out.
These Wednesday night forums have been really fun, and it’d be awesome if we could get some more live viewers and YouTube subscribers (click here to subscribe). Liking the videos is also super helpful, and I’d appreciate if you took a moment to click that thumbs up.
As always, thanks for reading, watching and listening.
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