Wednesday, 3 September 2014

New Beginnings - Wayward #1

by Matt Puddy

Breaking away from the superhero mould that DC and Marvel so happily fit into is nothing new for Image and their newest publication is no exception. Wayward is written by Jim Zub (Samurai Jack, Archer & Armstrong and Suicide Squad), we are transported to the Far East onto the islands of Japan for the story to take place.

Our heroine Rory Lane is making her way to Japan to meet and live with her mother. It is a massive change for her; one that is welcomed, albeit a touch scary as well. On arrival she has to try to find her own way to her mothers’ house which, in Japan, is quite a feat in itself. However even now Rori feels there is something strange going on, when a path mysteriously opens up to her in the form of a glowing red line. Putting it down to simple jet lag she pushes it aside and goes about her way.

It’s with her next foray into the city that strange occurrences continue to happen around her. The plethora of cats following her is just the start, and when she has the misfortune of walking into a small street gang of thugs, the arrival of a stranger called Ayane only adds to the weirdness.

Of course Rori is grateful for the help, but when her would-be assailants' skins are ripped off to reveal that they are sword wielding turtle-like creatures – known in Japanese mythology as Kappa – things get crazier. Ayane - complete with yellow eyes and pointy teeth - seems to be enjoying the whole experience, all while Rori starts seeing the red lines again as a route of escape. Athletically leaping from point to point (after handing out a good few blows to the Kappa) the girls run from the scene.

All it takes is some strawberry milk to thank for Ayane saving the day – something which she handles with a very casual ease. But then, just as immediately as Ayane appeared she simply disappears into the night, once again leaving Rori a stranger in a strange land.

There is some really nice writing in this comic which makes it a really easy read. Once I got over the first page Americanisation (or spelling mistake?) of decent instead of descent, you quickly get used to the idea that over 90% of this issue is “written and translated” from Japanese for ease of reading.

Interestingly enough it is all interwoven with a small amount of Japanese fables and myths as well. To support this (and this is something I really liked) there’s a small edutainment section at the back as well, where readers are introduced to the full story behind the myths and legend of the culture from the land of the rising sun.

Artistically I know that Ben wasn’t impressed by Cover C (Jeffrey Chamba Cruz) for this issue - one of 11 variants in total - but I have to disagree a little. It’s bright, colourful and introduces three main areas of the comic without giving anything really away and keeping an air of mystery at the same time. (I definitely felt the other main covers were stronger I'm afraid, particularly Alina Urusov's cover B. BF)

Internally Steve Cummings artwork and John Rauch’s colouring (assisted again by Jim Zub) work really well. The line work is clean and smooth, as well as the shading and colouring. Equally there is a general American feel to the overall comic, but even in the drawing there are elements and a certain feel to it which are Japanese – Ayane in particular.

Overall this was a really interesting comic and one heartily recommended by many for fans of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. A girl taken out of her world and pushed into a new one, a strange new instinct or is it power? And a myriad of mythical creatures to tackle in the process. What can possibly go wrong?

Matt Puddy is ready to start taking names...

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