"Wayward #5" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Image Comics
Written by Jim Zub
Illustrated by Steven Cummings
2014, 32 Pages, $3.50
Comic released on December 17th, 2014
After assembling a group of teens with strange abilities, Rori comes face-to-face with a group of supernatural baddies and literally brings the roof down. Feeling her mother is in danger, she rushes home only to find her apartment destroyed and some samurai dog monsters standing in the rubble.
Up until this point, Rori has been slowly learning to use her powers. They've led her to her new friends and have helped her find her own weird little niche in Japan. This confrontation changes everything for her. It not only cements her friendships but it uproots her entire home life and provides a brief glimpse into the bigger picture that has only been hinted at up until this point. There's a lot more going on in the supernatural underground of Tokyo and Rori is connected to it.
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The first few issues of Wayward are like getting the band together. Rori met a few other kids that had weird powers and they started hanging out like an informal and somewhat awkward version of the Scooby Gang in Buffy. Their introductions felt a little rushed at times, like writer Jim Zub was trying to get them all side by side as quickly as possible. It isn't until this issue that everything really comes together and they work as one. I didn't realize it until the emotional punch of the final page that I had gotten so wrapped up in their lives. I legitimately care for each of them and I hate having to watch them go through this pain and torment at the hands of these creatures.
Speaking of those monsters, they are expertly drawn by artist Steven Cummings. These aren't your basic goons like Bebop and Rocksteady. These are fierce warriors, ready, willing, and able to kill someone at a moment's notice, should their master give his approval. Their leader is even scarier, looking on with glowing eyes. He appears almost human but there's definitely something off about him. There's a ruthless quality to him. This is what pure evil looks like.
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While there is an amazing battle that takes up the bulk of this issue, what really hits home are the close-ups of Rori. She witnesses something that shakes her to her core and she can do nothing but watch it happen with tears streaming down her face. You can almost see her go through the stages of acceptance, cycling through each one on her face until she's ready to share that pain with her enemies in a release of pure energy. By this point you're with her completely.
Wayward is a healthy mix of action, emotion, and damn good storytelling. The comic continues to explore a supernatural area of Japan that is increasingly terrifying. What really shines through is the strength of the character development and how easy it is to connect to them. Each one represents a different aspect of a typical high school student, and we've all been there.