Wayward #1 is an urban fairytale featuring a young woman named Rori Lane. She travels to Japan to live with her mother after a period of time away in Ireland with her Father. Upon her arrival, mysterious things begin to happen to her in this foreign, yet familiarbrilliant team comprised of Steve Cummings, Jim Zub and John Rauch brings an enchanting, supernatural story to life.
Rori’s mother was a Japanese seamstress and her father was an Irish engineer. Rori describes herself as “half ‘n’ half result of their flawed time together.” Rori grew up in Ireland, but she was heavily immersed in both cultures – never truly belonging to one or themoved from her dad’s home in Ireland to her mom’s in Japan, looking for a new start. At this point, her motivations are unclear as to why she departed from Ireland, but she is eager to begin anew.
She struggles with identity – a “half ‘n’ half” is how she refers to herself (and not necessarily with pride, I gather based on the frankness of her tone). She is poised between two cultures, between two countries, between two different parts of the world. Rori finds herself to be a cultural anomaly. Not only is it difficult to find one’s place in the world just as a youth in general, but Rori faces extra difficulties due to her different, split heritage. Not truly Japanese, not truly Irish. What is she truly? What will she become truly? Where does she belong? These are questions everyone must deal with at a time; Rori’s time is now.
Despite the struggles that come with her extraordinary heritage, she is emotionally mature and a confident young woman. She accepts the circumstances surrounding her parents’ divorce (which have yet to be revealed to the reader). Rori moves about the passingly-familiar city in a self-assured manner, able to navigate without much trouble. She also dons an outfit that I’d imagine fits right in with the Japanese culture – able to switch flawlessly from the “Irish side” of her to the “Japanese side.” Her mother encourages her to speak in Japanese in the house, for her to practice before school. Rori is a cultural chameleon and is able to adapt to what she needs to do without missing a step. This may turn out to be a critical power to have when dealing with magical-realism conflicts that arise later in the comic.
Wayward displays electrifying art and color schemes throughout the comic. The coloring is bright and flashy – nearly a sensory overload. John Rauch uses these neon colors to playfully highlight eccentric wardrobe choices of the characters and unique scenery featured in this comic.
Steve Cummings is the penciler for Wayward and does a beautiful job bringing the characters and city to life. Each human is very detailed; I can tell every person has their own personality without needing dialogue to explain it. There are several crowd scenes that impressed me: on an airplane, at a subway station, on a bus. Each face is extremely expressive of individual personalities, yet shows disinterest or discomfort in jammed surroundings.
The city doesn’t come into full bloom until a few pages into the comic. But when it does, it’s a dazzling step into the light. The people in the previous panels are colored beautifully, but the pure blue sky, white clouds and alluring skyscrapers in the Japanese city are a breath of air after journeying through the cramped spaces that come with travel.
Beyond its complex color scheme and detailed penciling, this comic presents the exploration of youth yearning to find their place in the world. Everyone can relate to new beginnings – whether it’s moving to a new job, to a new city, or a new country. This comic beautifully captures the whirlwind of emotions – eagerness, trepidation, stress – when starting something new.
Rori embarks upon a journey that she could never have planned on taking. “Wayword” refers to something that is “difficult to control or predict because of unusual behavior.” I quickly understood that Rori is thrust into a “wayward” country, for circumstances she cannot begin to fathom. Japan is familiar to her, but the adventures occur there are something far from familiar…
There’s a zest of magical realism that’s spread throughout the story that is rare and, as of issue #1, underdeveloped. Rori is involved in a series of incidents that are magical in nature and will serve as a critical character development for Rori and all involved in her world. The magical realism is unexpected, for both the reader and Rori. A few thuggish men begin to heckle Rori in the street. Finding herself in a bind and in need of a rescue, Rori subconsciously plots a plausible escape. However, the escape isn’t needed as rescuer comes to her aid, but it’s not anyone she was expecting.
The series will appeal to any fan of urban fairytales, Japanese manga and strong female leads. Rori Lane is an strong willed young woman with uncommon and mystifying events in her future. Wayward will hypnotize readers for issues to come.