Story – Jim Zub (@jimzub)
Line Art – Steve Cummings (@stekichikun)
Colors – Jim Zub and John Rauch (@John_Rauch)
Letters – Marshall Dillon (@MarshallDillon)
Review by Joey Braccino
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER FOR A NEW GENERATION! Rori Lane is trying to start a new life when she reunites with her mother in Japan, but ancient creatures lurking in the shadows of Tokyo sense something hidden deep within her, threatening everything she holds dear. Can Rori unlock the secrets of her power before it’s too late? – From imagecomics.com
That’s a pretty lofty declaration for Wayward, the latest creator-owned series from Image Comics. While I don’t know if Wayward #1 reaches that Buffy bar just yet, Jim Zub and Steve Cummings do deliver an engaging, promising debut for Rori Lane and her mystical coming-of-age adventure.
Rori is a Half-Irish/Half-Japanese teenager-of-a-messy-divorce starting a new life with her mother in Japan after finishing in school in Ireland with her father. With her whole life packed into two bags and her stark red hair, Rori makes the leap from one world to the other in the first few pages of Wayward. Jim Zub (Skullkickers) establishes Rori’s transient self-image in advance of her revelation about the spiritual world of Japan. In many ways, Rori’s straddling of two cultures parallels her straddling of the urban world of Tokyo and the underworld of monsters, humanoid turtles, and cat people. Rori herself seems to have special abilities that are slowly revealed over the course of the issue, but, in true coming-of-age fashion, she doesn’t know what the heck is going on. Zub deftly juggles Rori’s personal conflicts—coming to terms with the pace of life in Tokyo, her jump from parent-to-parent, and a general aimlessness—and the climactic confrontation with the Japanese folk monsters. I suppose that’s the spiritual parallel that Image wants to draw between Wayward and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and it almost works, but (thankfully) it feels like Wayward wants to build and occupy its own world.
I will say that some of the dialogue and narration is a bit heavy-handed (Rori’s mother hits the nose with a hammer when she says “I’m so glad you’re here, Rori! I missed you terribly. The divorce took its toll on all of us but this is a fresh start”—not much subtly there, I suppose), but a lot of that structural awkwardness falls away once Zub introduces us to cat-lady Ayane and the Kappa.
Steve Cummings’ manga-inspired aesthetic is absolutely perfect for Wayward #1. Cummings fuses manga figurework with a Western naturalism, capturing the intense, vibrant details of a bustling metropolis like Tokyo while still maintaining that distinct manga look and feel. John Rauch and Jim Zub’s colors are stunning—a mix of nigh-neon blues and purples and greens–with a pop and energy often seen in anime and Japanese films like Spirited Away.
Check it out! Wayward #1 is a promising start for a new coming-of-age story from Jim Zub and Steve Cummings. Despite Image’s lofty solicits, Zub doesn’t seem to want to emulate Buffy so much as he wants to explore the world of Japanese mysticism and its interactions with the commercialized realities of modern Tokyo. In that sense, we have something very fascinating and unique in Wayward!