At its core, No Place Like Home is a reimaging of L. Frank Baum’s Oz, but this isn’t a “dark and gritty” reboot. It is most definitely dark, but not in the now standard way that many, many comics, movies, and video games are. The direction that NPLH goes is different. This is not the story of Dorothy Gale (I just got that.) as she is whisked off to a magical wonderland. This is the story of Dee as she returns home to Emeraldsville, Kansas, to deal with her parents’ death in a freak tornado. Things in town go from bad to horror-movie pretty quickly, and Dee finds herself trapped between a mysterious killer and a town-wide conspiracy. There are countless allusions and nods to The Wizard of Oz, from major plot points to single panel sight gags. The references are very well done and add a layer of “I see what you did there” to the story.
The story, by Angelo Tirotto, incorporates many elements of horror, without quite stepping into the genre. There is an unsettling town drunk, long-buried secrets, and a shadowy threat with unknown motivations. Instead of becoming a horror comic, NPLH remains firmly in the realm of suspense. The sense of unease and mystery works perfectly.
The characters are a huge part of the success of this comic. The two mainest characters, Dee and her childhood friend Lizzie, are in over their heads, but never wander into horror-heroine behavior. They react (mostly) realistically and are good strong characters, even though they are female. Also, they easily pass the Bechdel test.
Richard Jordan’s art is exactly right for this comic. He captures the menace and humor that this comic relies on without letting either part overshadow the other. The result is a comic that is equally sinister and funny with more subtle (and a few unsubtle) references to the Land of Oz. The art, with help from the pacing and story, makes Oz a genuinely threatening force.
If you like your classics reimagined but think that “dark and gritty” is stupid, this is definitely a book worth reading. The darker elements fit the story without threatening to take over. If, on the other hand, you are a fan of horror or suspense and are even vaguely familiar with Oz, this is still a book worth reading. I enjoyed this immensely and think you should check it out.
Four and a Half Monkey Fezzes out of Five