WAYWARD #1 (Review)–The Best Anime Not On TV

Source: Image Comics

A couple months ago, when the big hype machine was worming its way around, I preordered the first issue of the new Batgirl run from Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher and Babs Tarr that begins in October. It was the first time I’d ever explicitly called a store and placed a preorder, and I did it mostly because I want this run to succeed for a lot of reasons (which I’ll discuss when my actual review goes up).

That was all I was planning to preorder, but then I read the preview of the first issue of Wayward, a new creator-owned series from Image by Jim Zub (Samurai Jack, Skullkickers) and Steve Cummings (Flash, Deadshot) and I was intrigued by what I read. Intrigued enough to order that too.

I arrived back in Michigan last Saturday–the first issue came out last Wednesday–and after getting settled into my apartment, I went down to my comic shop and picked up. I wasn’t disappointed; having read it through twice, I can honestly say Wayward is a great new series and I look forward to seeing where it goes.

The story, like the headline says, reads like it came straight from an anime fan’s mind. Half-Irish, half-Japanese high schooler Rori Lane, sick of living with her Irish dad, moves to Tokyo for the first time to be with her mother. Besides the usual cultural adjustment, Rori suddenly begins seeing red pathways pop up that no one else can that tell her where she needs to go. And things get even weirder when she discovers that there are monsters walking the streets of Tokyo.

One thing I can say about this first issue is that it gets to the point. While a whole opening arc could be built out of Rori adjusting to life in Japan, Zub and Cummings get right down to business. It’s refreshing and very gripping. Zub is very good at taking these characters we’ve seen a ton of times–teenager in a foreign place, workaholic mom and so on–and really making them worth knowing.

Cummings is not an artist whose work I’ve seen before, and that’s a shame because he’s great. It’s very easy to imagine his designs popping up in an anime and his work is crisp and clear. John Rauch’s coloring  further enhances the book’s appealing nature. It’s lovely stuff and it’s a good touchstone to turn manga fans onto American comics.

Even cooler is that the two men–of whom Cummings actually lives in Yokohama, Japan–have enlisted the help of Japanese scholar and translator Zack Davisson to write a series of essays about “Weird Japan,” exploring the country’s deep supernatural lore, and encyclopedia entries on all the monsters Rori seems to encounter. The entry here is on kappas, and it’s thought-provoking stuff that further adds to the series’ appeal.

Bottom line: if you know someone who prefers manga over Western comics, have them check this out. It’s a great bridging point between the two styles, and it’s wonderful stuff all on its own. Image has been promoting this book by saying it’s for Buffy The Vampire Slayer fans and while I don’t fully get the comparison, I get the spirit of it and I would agree in that respect. I’ll be sticking with this for as long as it’s out there.