Released this week, Wayward is about a teenager, Rori Lane, who’s just moving to Japan to live with her mother. Part Japanese, part Irish, Rori is not a complete stranger to the culture she’s about to immerse herself in, but neither is she yet a part of it. Written by Jim Zub, with lines by Steve Cummings, colours by John Rauch and Jim Zub, letters by Marshall Dillon, and the extra fact file/monster manual section by Zack Davisson – Wayward’s promise is to be “Buffy the Vampire Slayer for a new generation”. That means monsters, abilities and growing up. So how did the first issue read?
Starting with Rori’s move to Japan was a great choice by Jim Zub. Okay, it’s a little cliché to start out with a big change in a character’s life like that (Buffy did it, so did the original ladies of Charmed), but because she’s moving to a new country, it means that many of the comic’s readers and Rori are on the same level: newcomers in an unfamiliar land. This made identifying with Rori really easy and I’m already quite impressed with her as a character: she’s down to Earth (in her own way), quirky and not afraid to admit when she’s out of her depth.
Rori’s move isn’t all she shares with Buffy: her parents are also divorced and she’s going to be starting a new school. Ah, but why would you read this as opposed to watching Buffy? Rori has a different type of personality and the abilities that are only just scratched in this first issue are different in their own way to Whedon’s creation. She’s also in far deeper water: the stakes raise pretty quickly in this first issue before simmering down. After all: Sunnydale was a slice of suburbia in comparison to the depths of Tokyo.
I went in expecting at least a fight scene and what pleasantly surprised me was that the one we were given didn’t outstay its welcome. I often find fight scenes in comics to be too long, but Jim Zub managed to keep this dramatically appropriate and Steve Cummings’ interpretation of the scene was smooth and expressive.
But before we get to this supernatural showdown, Steve Cummings, John Rauch and Jim Zub treat us to some beautiful and detailed scenes of Tokyo and the world that Rori is entering. Nothing feels contrived and stereotyped, it just looks deep and wonderfully intricate. And the palette isn’t too strong, but the colours are bright where they need to be and damn: Tokyo looks fabulous and so does everyone (except for beasties) in it.
Once the dust has settled and the issue comes to its conclusion, I think having a monster manual of sorts at the end of each issue is a thoughtful touch. It goes into a surprising amount of detail about the monsters that Rori is facing off against. Considering that for many western readers, the creatures involved are likely to be unfamiliar – it’s also handy.
This first issue was a lot of fun and it definitely has the potential to be something I will pick up on a regular basis. I’d say it’s too early to judge whether it could be Buffy for a new generation, but if it keeps itself as approachable as it is in this issue, then it will go far. Definitely worth picking up.
Wayward chapter one is out now, published by Image Comics. Our reviewer bought their own issue digitally.