Not going to lie,my eyes are going to zero in on a comic cover with cats. If the comic with cats on the cover turns out to be a supernatural/horror comic series involving Japanese mythology, now you have my full attention.
The creator-owned Wayward comics jump right into the supernatural soup of Japanese monsters and myths. Rori Lane is our half Irish/half Japanese heroine. Hints of a messy divorce has Rori ending up in Japan to stay with her mother. She may have grew up understanding the language and cultural nuances,it is an entirely different matter to be physically in that environment. An experience this reviewer can definitely relate to. Except my first night did not involve getting into an altercation with guys who suddenly became kappas (turtle-like bipedal creatures that have a bowl of water on their heads). Assisted by the sudden appearance of a girl named Ayane, they both scamper off with Rori’s mysterious ability to see patterns and pathways.
Teenagers, they sure are supernatural magnets aren’t they?Through it all, Rori seems to be cool and collected.An only child dealing with the effects of her parents divorce:traumatically stressful. Moving from Ireland to Japan: culturally stressful.Being a teenage girl: hormonally stressful.
In the second issue of Wayward, Rori has started the painful adjustment of being the new transfer student. She has to contend with the deep immersion of the languages, her hair color offending the school, and being the outcast from the tight knit social system of a Japanese high school. There is also an unexpected friendship forming between her and a quiet boy who she is compelled to follow after school one day.There she witnesses the guy secret (hint: it is of the supernatural element).
Wayward is a created by Jim Zub (Skullkickers) and art is by Steve Cummings. This is my first experience with Zub’s work but from his long list of work, Zub loves fantasy. Different levels of fantasy. The first two issues are still in the introductory phases. I believe a couple of more main characters need to be introduced before the story get’s going. By issue two, it’s clear that Rori is acting like a human Luna from Sailor Moon. Her ability to see pathways leads her to situations to meet these characters. It is not coincidence. Since she is the main character, I’m really curious to know what happens when her power truly manifests. Will she have a powerful offensive tactic against these mythological creatures? Or is she like Sailor Moon and relies on a magical item?
The appearance of the mythology is interesting. So far, none of them are actively seeking Rori out. She walked into the lurking Kappas. The second issue, the guy was involved. Are these mythological creatures regular occurrence in this version of Japan or can only these three see them? Not a glimpse of an antagonist yet. Other than high school.
The cover artwork is chillingly beautiful with all the shades of blue, and an atmosphere of all the supernatural elements in the night. It is also interesting to note the similarities in the first and second cover issues by Steve Cummings. Both have the characters standing on top of a staircase looking down. My guess is that the same will be done for the next few. I wonder if they will all combine into one artwork with Rori being the key to the whole piece. For being the heroine, alot of attention is not placed on her in the cover. Very mysterious. Inside the comic, the pages are full of details. Details of Japanese high school, residential streets, markets.Mundane and supernatural scenes are full of detail and energy.
This whole comic could have easily been seen as a typical manga but make no mistake, this is no magical girl anime. There are no cute little joke bubbles or floating pastries. This is a beautiful comic heading into some interesting storytelling. As a bonus treat, the end of the comic contains background information of Japanese culture and mythological creatures.
Once again, this comic has been described with the ever marketable association with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This time, this association seems more warranted. There is definitely paranormal elements abound and our main heroine seems to be the key to fighting these monsters. Other than her ability to see patterns and paths, her power has not manifested fully yet so time will tell how similar Wayward is to the Buffy:The Vampire Series (BTVS).
As a a fan to the BTVS, let’s compare the first two issues of Wayward:
- Buffy is a female lead……..Rori is a female lead: check
- Buffy is a teenage…….Rori is a teenage: check
- Buffy transfers to Sunnyvale……Rori transfers to Japan: check
- Buffy just wants to fit in….so does Rori: check
- Buffy trains in martial art skills to hone her supernatural ability to fight vampires/demons….Rori can see pathways: nope
- Buffy has Giles for guidance……..Rori has ??????
- Buffy has Xander for comedic guy friend…..Rori has ?????
- Buffy has a best friend who is also scary good at witchcraft….Rori has Ayane (a person who is good at violence and connected to cats somehow…): ????
- Buffy has a mother who is sweet but clueless..Rori’s mom so far is the same: check
Verdict: points to the Image marketing department. This does warrent the similarities. Fans of the BTVS may appreciate the series.
Anyone who is a fan of the fantasy/supernatural element would be interested in this comic. It is compelling, beautiful, and full of creatures that most people outside of Japan never heard of.
Zack Davisson(translator of Japanese folklore) wrote in an article at the end of Wayward #1 and summarized the mythology: Japan embraces the weird. The creatures in the comic definitely reflect that and I am looking forward for more.