– by Matthew Meylikhov on Friday, February 24, 2012
Dee’s life is in turmoil when her parents are killed in a freak tornado. Returning to Kansas for the funeral after five years in LA, Dee discovers Emeraldsville is the same unexciting place it was when she left – until the bizarre unexplained murders begin.
With an unknown killer closing in, the events of one night in 1959 begin to unravel as a portal to a world of horror opens, a portal paved with yellow bricks…Image has proven within the past few years that if they release a comic with a #1 on the cover, you’re going to want to check it out — and wouldn’t you know it, but right up there in the corner of the cover for No Place Like Home is a bright, shiny #1.Only makes sense to give it a go, no?
Hop after the cut for a spoiler-free look at Image’s new ongoing.
In the back of the issue, series writer Angelo Tirotto writes that in 2009 he saw a terrible show that had “squandered a brilliant idea and turned it into something horrible.” Convinced that he could do better, he took to creating the comic No Place Like Home, which you can currently find in comic shops across the country. To that end, one could theoretically assume a few things: you could probably assume that this might read a little bit like a pilot, and that whatever it was that motivated Tirotto so much would assumedly be under scrutiny. While the latter isn’t too obvious, the former absolutely is.
There are many instances of comics reading like television. Ex Machina is the obvious example, but there are plenty of television writers who have done comics and structured them accordingly — Jeph Loeb, Mike Benson, and Joss Whedon (the main “offender”, so to speak), to name a few. It’s both a positive and negative, truthfully; on the one hand, the structure of television can lead to a good flow for a book, and occasionally better dialogue. On the other, the script could theoretically rely too much on the unseen performer, leaving a gaping hole of personality from the book. There are also the random instances that somehow assimilate both qualities, although those are often few and far between.
It’s this that bring us to No Place Like Home. If No Place Like Home were a show, “Home Again” would effectively be the pilot and the first issue would be up to the first commercial break. This aspect of it weighs a bit on the book, because while the first issue very much sets the ground for what is to come, nothing happens to any great extent; Dee returns home, expresses love of Bruce Willis and deals with an angry man in a beard. No Place Like Home is a horror comic, but it’s definitely a slow burn, with a bit more tell than show for its first outing.
Of course, the apparent influence of the book isn’t the only influence of the book. Instead, No Place Like Home continues a modern trend of re-imagining classic stories, this time taking aim at L. Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz. It’s no real coincidence that the main character Dee (assumedly short for Dorothy) is in Emeraldsville, Kansas right after a tornado, nor is it a coincidence that she winds up with a puppy sidekick. In case her watching Wizard of Oz at a drive-in wasn’t clue enough, Tirotto even goes so far as to explain that yes, it is Wizard of Oz, but no, it’s not going to just be a simple re-imagining. “We’re going to take you to a familiar place with familiar faces,” he writes, “doing unfamiliar things.”
There in lies the ultimate question of the book: how does the Oz factor play out? Even with the pace of the book, the mere fact that this is Oz offers up an instant familiarity that works for the book’s favor. Anyone picking up the title with the understanding that this is “the nightmare Oz” knows a little bit of what they can expect in terms of characters. Yes, Dee is now punk chick working in a book store in LA who is a fan of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and her best friend wears fishnets, but you still have enough familiar with Dorothy (probably by way of Judy Garland) that even the unfamiliar is instantaneously accessible.
However, this too is ultimately more of an afterthought in the end. It’s probably for the best, though. If the book was spending too much time riffing on Baum’s classic, it would probably be more detrimental than anything. As of right now, there are enough teases throughout the book that result in a wink and a nudge on behalf of the book. It’s assumedly a thread that will pay off sooner rather than later, but as of now Oz is more of a backdrop than it is a central focus.
For a first issue, No Place Like Home plays it safe on basically all accounts. It develops a creepy vibe that certainly works for it, but it isn’t one that is too present, certainly not enough to develop any major recognition. It also re-imagines a classic heroine, but only at a surface value. It’s certainly not bad, and all things considered the book could develop into quite a tributary epic on some level. For now, though, we’re given a tiny piece of a whole with a month long commercial break, and after a first read it is questionable as to if this version of Oz is one worth returning to.
I’m an optimist, though.
Final Verdict: 6.0 – Browse for now, but certainly revisit it again in a month with the second issue