FCBD Review: The Steam Engines of Oz #1

Welcome to Free Comic Book Day! Instead of our usual lengthy reviews, we’ll be presenting more of a mini-review for some of FCBD issues. With that said, the scoring is also going to work a bit differently. Each book gets one of three scores: Pick It Up, Borrow a Friends If They Get It, Pass on It. Let’s begin!

This is a full sized first issue of the series which instantly makes it stand out from a lot of other FCBD editions. I enjoy aspects of FCBD, but I think a lot of companies really phone it in or miss out on a golden opportunity to hook readers. The only other company that I know of giving away the first issue of a new series is Oni Press, so both issues get a “Pick Up” in my opinion. With that aside, is this a series you’re going to want to continue following after this issue? Hell yes.

The story follows a woman named Victoria who works deep below the Emerald City. She fixes things, just naturally and without instruction. In fact she doesn’t even know what half of the stuff she fixes does for the city above, but that’s her job so she fixes. She grabs some food and supplies on her way back home and in a way bribes the guards to ignore the rest of the stuff in her hands by giving them a bottle of wine or whatever it is she has. Once she’s inside it looks like a prison and she stops and visits some very (mostly) normal looking older men. She gives them supplies like bread and a grooming kit before heading into her own cell that is completely left open. She’s about to nod off when she finds a white flying monkey reaching for bananas on her floor. Victoria helps the flying monkey out, but when she gets close the ape grabs her and pulls her outside where other flying monkeys are waiting.

She’s taken to visit the Witch from the North and once she arrives the Witch asks her to explain herself. Victoria doesn’t understand since she just fixes things, but the Witch shows her the Emerald City and how the Tin Man is cutting down trees and expanding the city. If she continues to fix things, he’ll be able to further expand. The Witch tells her that she must go back and convince the Tin Man to stop expanding.

I was actually telling the co-writer Erik Hendrix that I’m not one to seek out an Oz type story. With the exception of The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West I’ve never found an Oz story that I enjoyed. I really liked this story though and world that it created. This is less kid friendly, but doesn’t drift too far into the darkness that Ive been told exists in the original book. Victoria isn't a damsel or in need of rescuing, instead she’s just a bit naive and that’s due to how she lives… in captivity. I liked her character and I liked her quest of stopping the Tin Man. From the cover it’s clear that the usual cast of Oz characters are destined to show up in the story, but Victoria has her own supporting cast and I think they’ll end up being a good edition to the world.

I wouldn’t say that I seek out Steam Punk styled stories either, but I enjoyed the look and design of this world. The steam punk wasn’t over the top or distracting, it honestly came across as the fashion which is the only way it can work in a comic. If you cannot believe characters would take the time to dress themselves in such a fashion, then it doesn’t work in terms of the story. There wasn’t a lot of action or to the story, but there was a ton of detail to every panel. Every scene is rich with life and even though we’re underneath the city, it still has a ton going on. I really enjoyed the art style.

This is a great issue, but also a great FCBD title. I’m sure that a regular edition of this will find its way into stores since you don’t want people missing out on it, but I think it was very successful in setting up a story that was interesting and populating it with believable characters.

Score: Pick it Up! (4/5)

Writers: Erik Hendrix and Sean Patrick O’Reilly

Artist: Yannis Roumboulias

Publisher: Arcana Studios

Price: Free

Release Date: 5/4/13