"Wayward #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Image Comics
Written by Jim Zub
Illustrated by Steve Cummings
2014, 32 Pages, $3.50
Comic released on August 27th, 2014
Meet Rori Lane. She's half Irish and half Japanese and she just moved to Tokyo to stay with her mom. Things might be strange enough for her being a redhead in Japan, but then she meets a strange cat-girl and fights some monsters. Now things are pretty weird. This is how Wayward begins and you're about to fall in love with your new favorite female heroine.
The first few pages of Wayward read like your typical “fish out of water” tale. Rori finds herself in a strange new land, all alone except for her mother, who is working most of the time. When she goes on a walk and gets surrounded by a herd of cats, she's accosted by a group of thugs. It's here that everything changes for her, and Rori is introduced to a bizarre underground of monsters and demons from Japanese lore. This isn't an educational trip to Boresville. Instead, Wayward jumps right into action and shows that Rori is a strong girl able to take care of herself and kick some ass. Move over, Buffy.
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Rori has an ability to see the various possible routes she could take to achieve a goal. This is helpful when she gets lost on her way home, but it is even more useful when she's in a fight. It works sort of like the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes movies, where she can see the different outcomes that each of her actions can take and the consequences of each. Artist Steve Cummings visualizes this with negative images covered in red lines and markings that show where Rori will step, jump, or land.
The thugs turn out to be Kappas, creatures now seen as “mischievous imps” in Japanese folklore. The transformation from gang member to monster is handled fantastically by Cummings. These guys literally rip their faces off in a moment of pure terror. You don't know exactly what's going on and all of a sudden Rori is watching these guys tear their skin off. It's a pretty cool scene and adds a nice bit of horror to the mix.
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It's very easy to get wrapped up in Rori. She's easy to relate to because everyone has felt alone or lost at one point in their lives. She's the kind of girl that you would love to hang out with. Her toe is dipped into the supernatural landscape and a whole new world is opened up to her with crocodile monsters and cat-girls. Cummings' design for her manages to capture a variety of emotions. Seen in the right light, Rori could be completely innocent, playful, or confident.
This is a damn near perfect first issue. You've got the basics of Rori's new status quo with just enough sprinkled in to give you an idea of what to expect while not boring you with exposition about where she comes from or where she got her abilities. Instead, writer Jim Zub gets right into the story and pulls you into this world head first to the point where you never want to leave.