Wayward is a comic that covers a wide spectrum of emotions. There are moments of extreme highs and moments of bottomless lows. The main character, Rori, experiences all of these moments, struggling to cope with her newfound situation. Rori has recently moved from her native Ireland to Japan to live with her mother. She enters an unknown land to be with someone that hasn’t really been a major part of her life. Though Rori is half Japanese and can speak the language, she is an outsider. She can communicate on the most basic level but struggles to find a further connection to her new surroundings to feel not as alone as she does. However, from the first issue of Wayward, ending the first arc with the most recent release of issue #5, Rori finally realizes, she is not alone.
The spiritual mystery of Wayward has been one of the strengths of the series from the start, especially since the questions posed from the supernatural elements are what maintain Rori from going into a deeper state of loneliness. The spirits, or yokai, appear to threaten Rori’s life constantly, and are held back through the assistance of a group of individuals that also contain a connection to this in-between world. Ayane embodies the ninja like intuitions and actions of a feline, Nikaido, whom has newly discovered a literal explosive power, and Shirai, the powerful absorber of spirits that gives his body an immense amount of strength. Rori realizes, from one of the more shocking moments in Wayward so far, that these people she has encountered has provided a way for her to belong and mean something.
The curious nature of the streams of red brought Rori and her friends to a trap last issue, allowed a new, and very menacing individual in a white suit to enter the fray. And, oh boy, does he ever make an impact. If your heartstrings haven’t been pulled yet, prepare for another loop of emotion on the roller-coaster Wayward. This white suited, blue veined head, yokai is known as Nurarihyon, a figure of authoritative power in the world of the yokai, respectively understood as the leader of the spirit world. He wants to understand the powers that Rori and her mother have, and their links to what he calls the ‘weave’ and the ‘loom’. The repercussions of this issue will surely change the way this book will progress, only opening the flood gates for more exciting avenues to be explored.
Jim Zub continues to impress with a rapid fire script, balancing an intimate plunge into the mind of Rori alongside these tense moments of yokai threats. Steve Cummings’s artwork is a great blend of Western and Eastern influences, embodying Rori through his pencil work, shining through some notable beautiful splash pages. Tamra Bonvillain (easily the best name in comics) kicks major gluteus maximus with her eye popping colouring that is especially noteworthy in this highflying issue. The first arc ends with a real bang, succeeding in causing this particular reader to impatiently await the next issue in March.
The one thing that is especially worthy of getting this title on an issue-by-issue basis (besides the actual brilliant comic itself) is the essays and character bios that are contained in the back. Zack Davisson is a notable Japanese culture connoisseur and translator that has an essay in each issue of Wayward describing some more detail on a particular subject featured in the stories just read, such as the one diving into the mythos and history of the yokai in the current issue. It is definitely worth hunting down the individual issues, if possible, to absorb a greater Wayward experience. Wayward definitely awards those that are deep into Japanese culture, especially those familiar with the yokai and their attached folk tales. But more importantly, the comic breathes so much life into the subject matter that it only warrants the reader to research even more about the many topics mentioned throughout the first five issues. There should be high praise for this creative team, respectfully creating a genuinely fun, emotional, and educational book all at the same time.