Jim Zub’s newest Image Comics series “Wayward”, combines action and fantasy with a pinch of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. “Wayward” shows signs of being the next runaway Image Comics series.
Written by Jim Zub
Illustrated Steve Cummings
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? JIM ZUB (SKULLKICKERS, Samurai Jack), STEVE CUMMINGS (Legends of the Dark Knight, Deadshot), and JOHN RAUCH (INVINCIBLE) team up to create an all-new Image supernatural spectacle that combines the camaraderie and emotion of Buffy the Vampire Slayer with the action and mystery of Hellboy. Don’t miss it!
The first issue of a new series is always a tough job for a creative team. Not only do you need to cover the basics of your story but you’ve also got to grab new readers, reel them in and give them something to come back to. Jim Zub and Steve Cummings do that and more in “Wayward” #1. This is going to be something memorable and special.
“Wayward” #1 introduces us to Rori Lane. She’s a high school aged girl moving from her home in Ireland where she lived with her dad to Japan with her mom. Rori is a very hip looking girl; she’s very much a millenial. Zub and Cummings spend much of the first issue introducing us to her and her new world. As she discovers the city, we discover it. However Rori isn’t a normal young girl as she seems to have some kind of hidden abilities. She’s attacked on her first night in town and kicks all kinds of ass, and that’s what we’re left with going into issue two.
“Wayward” compares itself to Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the solicitation but I feel it’s very different. There are clearly some similarities; Rori is a strong, central female character who’s far more than meets the eye, and she comes from a complicated family where she’s getting used to living in a new place. However, “Wayward” is much more manga than Buffy. It’s very apparent that this is a manga influenced story with enough western design to appeal to a wider audience, which it does very well. I am not well versed in manga but I enjoyed the Japanese vibe it gave off. It’s unlike any comic published right now by any of the big publishers.
Rori is a really interesting character. I liked her right off the bat; she’s got such an authentic look. Artist Steve Cummings really combined her two nationalities in an organic way. She looks like most mixed people. Rori is Irish and Japanese, a combination I’ve never seen, and she’s got the red Irish hair (cut in a Ramona Flowers-esque fashion) with the facial characteristics of a Japanese person. It’s one of the most unique makeups of a lead character we’ve seen in a while. Cummings really nails her outward appearance in that sense, and does a fabulous job of dressing her. She really does look like a typical high school girl. Points to him for not getting too carried away with the manga influence because women in manga can be a little too sexualized and unrealistic.
This book has amazing pacing as well. Not a single panel feels wasted in any way. The combination of Zub’s writing and Cummings’ art is in perfect synchronicity. Steve Cummings is not an artist I’m familiar with but after reading this I want to see more of his work. Aside from his wonderful design of Rori, he does a fabulous job with the design and expressions of the other characters. Again the manga influence is visible because they have those highly emotional expressions. You see it in the way the eyes are drawn and in the way the city is built. It looks almost fantasy-like while keeping that realism we expect from more westernized comics.
The supernatural element of “Wayward” is apparent right away. The scope of it isn’t clear though. Rori is attacked by Japanese mythological creatures and she shows skills she didn’t know she had but it’s not entirely clear what that is. Is she a born slayer like Buffy Summers, or is this much more than that? While some readers may feel a little disappointed that we didn’t get answers, I think this was a smart move by Zub. From the beginning we only see what Rori sees. We don’t get a look at some evil cult or any behind the scenes action; we only know what she knows. It gives us, the reader, a bigger and more emotional connection to this character. We’ll grow with her and learn as she learns. It also gives us more to come back too. There’s such thing as giving too much away too soon, and luckily “Wayward” #1 doesn’t do that.Continued below
The action near the end of the issue was sublime. The movement was so fluid and detailed. Often times you’ll see artists sacrifice details for the sake of making the action over the top or even more violent. Cummings is actually better in these pages. Everything from the faces to the shadows is really spot on. It was incredibly cinematic; looking at these panels on the page was like watching a fight scene in a movie.
“Wayward” has the makings of a true hit. With a little more humor and a lot more ass kicking, this book is going to find a huge audience with comic fans. It’s off to a great start.
Final Verdict: 8.1 – Buy this, or mythological Japanese creatures will hunt you down.