"Wayward: Volume 1" Trade Paperback Review
Written by Angry Scholar
Published by Image Comics
Originally published as Wayward #1-#5
Written by Jim Zub
Illustrated by Steve Cummings
2015, 144 pages
Trade Paperback released on March 25th, 2015
Wayward is the story of half-Irish, half-Japanese teen Rori Lane, who moves to Japan to live with her mother after an apparent falling out with her dad in Ireland. No sooner has Rori arrived in Tokyo than strange things start happening. She sees glowing red threads that lead her around, gets attacked by a bunch of kappa, rescued by a strange girl named Ayane, and nearly killed by a classmate who eats the spirits of the dead (who later turns out to be an ally).
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Everything moves very fast here. There's little explanation in this first trade: all we know is that yōkai, the multifarious monsters of Japanese folklore, are growing restless, and that Rori apparently has some previously-unknown supernatural abilities. Her new friends Ayane and Shirai (the ghost-eater), and later the strange homeless boy Nikaido, have powers of their own, and together they decide to—like, form a supernatural club? So they do that, and hijinks ensue as they work to find out why the yōkai are acting up.
Steve Cummings' art is beautiful, combining elements of manga (especially in characters' faces) and Western-style comics to create a very detailed and somehow believable world. Yōkai are extremely popular these days, and it's nice to see them used as source material for a supernatural-themed comic.
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On the down side, at least in this first trade, the story really isn't anything new. It's very reminiscent of shōnen (boys') manga and anime like Bleach, with an unlikely teenaged protagonist abruptly sucked into a supernatural world and granted amazing powers. It's also extremely abrupt: Rori's friendship with the three other supernatural teens seems too convenient, and none of the characters, with the exception of Rori herself, has any depth. In fairness, though, the story does focus on the issues of fate and the magical threads connecting people, so these issues may be addressed in later volumes. I'm also not a fan of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer-ish writing. (On the other hand, if you are a Buffy fan, then you'll likely regard this as a point in Wayward's favor.)
The trade also includes a preface and some explanatory notes on Yōkai by Zack Davisson, author and translator, and proprietor of Hyakumonogatari.com, a site dedicated to the supernatural folklore of Japan.