When a tornado rips through Kansas, Dorothy and her dog, Toto, are whisked away in their house to the magical land of Oz. They follow the Yellow Brick Road toward the Emerald City to meet the Wizard, and en route they meet a Scarecrow that needs a brain, a Tin Man missing a heart, and a Cowardly Lion who wants courage. The wizard asks the group to bring him the broom of the Wicked Witch of the West to earn his help.
Caldwell's angular, dynamic artwork leans more toward Saturday-morning cartoons than romantic fantasy in the fourth comics adaptation in his All-Action Classics series. His Dorothy is gap-toothed and freckled; the black-eyed and troll-like Munchkins are truly alien; and the witches recall Disney villainesses like Snow White's Queen or The Little Mermaid's Ursula. (Caldwell's Wicked Witch of the West even speaks with a Western twang: "You and yer little furry thing have back-breaking, bone-crunching work to do!") Caldwell follows Baum's original novel rather than the iconic film. The heroes are pursued by the Kalidah, "horrific beasts, with heads like tigers and bodies like bears," and the famous path the four friends follow, as in the original, is called the "road of golden bricks." The humor, though, is his own. "She enslaved and tormented us!" says one Munchkin about the Wicked Witch of the East. "She despoiled our lands!" says a second. "And cut library funding!" adds a third. Caldwell's Wizard of Oz slots conveniently between Spongebob Squarepants and Adventure Time, and readers will fly through this story with the speed of winged monkeys. Ages 10 14.