BTVS season 1 review | BTVS season 2 review | BTVS season 3 review
Alright, now that you're all caught up on my first three BTVS season recaps, lets get on with this advanced review of Wayward #2, which comes out on the 24th of this month, so, about three weeks from now.
In the second issue of this series our heroine, Rori Lane, is adjusting to life in Tokyo, where she has just moved to live with her mother. Rori previously lived with her father in Ireland, but now, a year after her parent's divorce, she has relocated to Tokyo. Such a cultural shift during your teen years is a huge change for anyone, but an even bigger change for someone with supernatural (?) powers that they haven't quite figured out yet. In the first issue of Wayward, we were shown some of Rori's powers when she first arrived in Tokyo, and again when she encountered two kappas (Japanese turtle demons) in an alley. In that issue we also met Ayana, a girl with powers of her own who stepped in to help fight off the kappa that were harassing Rori.
This issue of Wayward scales back the action to allow readers a better chance to get to know Rori and find out what her daily life in Tokyo is going to be like. She arrives home from her first strange night in town to a waiting mother, who is surprisingly understanding of the fact that Rori was out all night her first day in Tokyo. She gives Rori a cellphone so that she can call home if she is going to be late. Rori's mother works long hours and isn't home much herself, so it seems like a good idea that Rori has a way to keep in touch.
After a day of trying to figure out how to tell her mother about her strange first night in Tokyo, Rori decides it best to not tell her at all, so as not to concern her. As Rori goes to sleep before her first day at her new school, we see her house surrounded by cats, a theme that is obviously going to play a large part in this story, as cats were present throughout much of the first issue as well.
Rori's first day at school is littered with reminders of how different Japan's school system, and culture, are from the western world as she struggles to fit in. Her teacher suggests she dye her hair in order to become more homogeneous (Rori is half Irish, and has red hair), she feels stupid because of her lack of grasp on the Japanese language and we see her eating lunch alone in the cafeteria among many other crowded tables.
While eating lunch, Rori notices another 'loner' in the lunch room, a boy sitting alone and not eating. After some more scenes of isolation, and Rori coping by cutting herself on the floor of a bathroom stall, the school day wraps up. As Rori is leaving, she sees the boy from the cafeteria again, and her powers seem to be keying off of a signature that he is emanating, so she decides to follow him. They eventually end up at a temple, where the boy is engaging in an argument with some sort of demon or soul that ends up entering the boy through his mouth and possessing him. After Rori is discovered a chase ensues, and the boy ends up damaging large parts of the city with his newly revealed powers. Rori eventually stops him by touching his forehead with her finger, which causes some sort of symbol to appear and expels the demon that had been possessing him.
At the close of this issue we see Shirai (the boy) and Rori walking off together, with Rori saying that it's better to be freaks together, than it is to be a freak alone. They are flanked on all sides by cats...but we don't know what the significance of that is just yet.
I have enjoyed the first two issues of Wayward immensely, and can't recommend this enough. The marketing isn't just a ploy to lure Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans with some lip service, this story honestly does remind me of BTVS in many ways, all of them good. The themes of isolation, maturity and teen angst come through well in Wayward, and definitely remind me of many narratives that Joss Whedon addressed in BTVS 17 years ago.
Jim Zub is writing appealing characters that are already complex yet relateable, and the setting of Tokyo always makes for an interesting background, as the city itself is like another character added into the mix. Throw in the many mysteries we already have to ponder (the cats, the magic, the kappa, Ayane, Shirai, what is Rori's mother like, how will Rori adjust to school in Japan?) and Wayward has set itself up as a title to add to your pull list, pronto!
Oh, and the art, my god, the art. This book is gorgeous, like, unbelievably gorgeous. The art has just the smallest hint of classic manga illustration, but with a distinctly western sense of style. The layout reads left to right, but feels very manga in panel selection and story flow. It's a genius blend of two very popular styles of visual storytelling. Steve Cummings line art is bold, masterfully crafting the cityscapes of Tokyo and rendering wonderful characters that are not only easy on the eyes, but have distinct personalities representative of both eastern and western cultures. Cummings lines are complemented well by Zub's and John Rauch's coloring, which depicts the city as dark and ominous, even during daylight, and really comes to life when Rori's abilities kick in, or other magic is present. There are some great color choices made here that actually involve no colors at all. There are a couple of stark white panels without backgrounds that serve to call out Rori's thoughts and emotions, and do a fantastic job of that.
The first two issues of Wayward have also included excellent bonus material in the form of short essays on aspects of Japanese culture that further help the reader understand and relate to the story. These are particularly helpful for readers who may not watch anime, read manga or have a previous interest in Japan. This kind of supplemental material is invaluable, and should never be skipped, it adds so much meat to the story, and provides cultural background that lends insight on a different level than just reading the story alone will.
This method of immersing the reader was employed by Brian Wood on the first few issues of Dark Horse's 'The Massive' a couple of years ago, and was similarly effective. Much like 'The Massive' (and 'Saga'), I will go out on a limb and say that this is going to be the best new title of 2014. Hindsight has proven that I was dead on with both 'Saga' and 'The Massive', as they are both still excellent titles, so if you tend to agree with my reviews, then you should definitely be picking Wayward up.
Image has another huge winner on their hands here, and I hope that there are enough sales to support a very long run on this title by Zub, Cummings and Rauch. I haven't been this excited for a new title since 2012 when both 'Saga' and 'The Massive' launched, and I hope you are already reading Wayward. If you aren't pick up issue #1 off the rack now, and add this to your pull list for September, you won't be sorry!