Wayward #11 serves as yet another well-paced entry into a new volume that shows how "writing for te trade" can be done effectively, and with an eye towards the bigger picture. The old grumpy comic fan shakes his fast at the sky and curses those who “write for the trade.” You hear the complaint come in waves: either stories that should be shorter are stretched to be marketable in trade paperbacks, or long-form stories suffer from weird blips in pacing to better package them in the digestible form of a TPB. Whatever.
Wayward is very much structured around the trade, but in a way that is wholly satisfying and adds depth to the manner in which Zub is choosing to introduce, re-introduce, and develop characters. For instance, the beginning of each volume of Wayward--that is, the first issue, the sixth issue, and now the eleventh issue--contains a sequence in which the Kanji for "Japan" is present (日本) and a character being introduced says a line to the effect of, "Japan. 128 million people, including me." This happens three times, introducing three different characters, at the beginning of three different story arcs, and sets the tone each time.
If the story is going to be rigorously structured around incidents that happen in five issue morsels, and if the overall story is building towards something very big with various characters and the shit they've been through in however many story arcs, this is a great way to set the tone for the series. Rather than having a character dropped in my lap at some point (which still happens because, you know, it has to happen in almost any story), I get a major dramatic introduction to a character through their own perspective. By making the introductions of major characters’ signposts that guide the reader from volume to volume, Zub and company are taking the character-driven aspect of this series seriously.
Another thing I quite like about beginning new volumes this way is that it was really easy for me to pick up volume 2 of Wayward, for instance, and feel like I could ease my way into the story despite having missed the first volume. By having the perspective of a new character who herself was just entering the story world in a meaningful way, her surprise was often my surprise, and I learned about the world as she did. Of course, this issue is less forgiving and doesn't have quite the impact if you haven't read previous Wayward story arcs, but the transition from #10 to #11 hinges on a substantially more climactic point.
As far as thoughtful storytelling choices go, one of my other favorite things about Wayward is that it is a distinctly Western comic which is simultaneously and singularly focused on presenting something not Western. This is a story with very little time devoted to aspect shots, as compared to manga, and, even more distinctly, a story which is absolutely packed to the gills with color.
Cummings’ monster designs remain a weird mix of menacing, surreal-but-sort-of-real, and fun, but Bonvillain's colors must be the thing that loads up your eyeball-face on nearly every single page. Wayward is a book wherein the creative team is unafraid to make the happenings of a normal, everyday street corner feel as alive as far more surreal sequences full of magical action and demonic fuckery that takes up entire pages. To wit, the art remains fairly routine except for one page which breaks all sorts of weird conventional space-timey rules in comics, which is especially notable because it happens during a substantial moment of duress for a certain character.
Reading the beginning of this third volume has also helped me realize something else: Zub has a pretty small bag of tricks; but, he’s capable of going back into it to deploy story developments in a way that the reader doesn’t expect. If you step back and look at all the moving parts in Wayward, there are relatively few players and, given the enormity of the situation, things are actually quite simple. I think Zub likes it that way, and it pairs very well with the incredibly rich and saturated artwork on this title.
I think that the backmatter from Davisson explaining the history of Yokai being systematically removed from having such a huge role in Japanese society is instructive of how Zub is thinking about this title: Zub is using this artistic team to put the magic back into these settings. Wayward shows that a little bit of mythology goes a long way in telling a magical story.
Wayward #11 Writer: Jim Zub Artist: Steve Cummings Colorist: Tamra Bonvillain Publisher: Image Comics Price: Digital $2.99 Print $3.50 Release Date: 11/18/15 Format: Ongoing, Print/Digital