The latest issue of Image Comics' Wayward is the second-to-last issue of the series' second story arc. The comic book, which launched late Summer 2014, is set in Japan and features those creatures and spirits of Japanese folklore, Yokai. Wayward is the creation of writer Jim Zub and artist Steve Cummings. Wayward focuses on Rori Lane, a half-Irish/half-Japanese teen girl, who is trying to start a new life in Japan. Instead, Rori and a small band of fellow magically-touched folks battle a secret war of magic in the shadows of Tokyo.
Wayward #9 (“Chapter Nine) opens in the past, as we witness the “Great Tengu,” Daranibo and his forces destroy a village. What's going on?
Back to the future: Ohara Emi (the narrator of much of this story arc) and Nikaido meet cat-girl Ayane's new pals, the Tsuchigumo – the Earth Spiders. They offer to help the trio in the battle against the Yokai, Nurarihyon, and his allies, but Ohara is suspicious. Meanwhile, Rori is on a mission, and she is feeling the full extent of her powers, which leaves her companion, Shirai, troubled.
THE LOWDOWN:Wayward writer/co-creator, Jim Zub, is still sending out advanced review PDF copies of Wayward, nine issues into the series, which one comics reviewer called “the next Saga.” The ComicBookBin receives these complementary PDFs, and I am glad that I received this one. I had planned on not reviewing Wayward for a while. What more can I say about the comic book that should have received a “best new series” Eisner nomination, I thought?
Well, what I don't want to say is that Wayward is getting better. That's too easy. It is actually getting bigger. The more Zub opens this world to his readers, the more he will ensnare them in the weave and the more they will buy into Wayward's conceit. In fact, it will be increasingly harder for readers to walk away. Steve Cummings and Tamra Bonvillain's graphical storytelling blazes, conjuring Wayward in a furious story of imagination and wild magic.
Also, an integral contributor to Wayward is Zack Davisson, a writer and scholar who is an expert on Japanese folklore and culture, including manga. His essays, which appear after the last story page of each issue of Wayward, are must-reads for manga readers who are interested in Japan outside the comics pages. This issue's essay, “The Secret History of Dirt Spiders,” is startling, and it also expands on information I have encountered in passing. This is info I need as a fan of Japanese comics and literature, and also of Japanese film and television.
POSSIBLE AUDIENCE: Readers looking for high-quality fantasy comic books should already be going Wayward.
[Wayward #9 contains another engrossing essay, “The Secret History of Dirt Spiders,” by Zack Davisson (@ZackDavisson).]