Wayward 12 takes the beginning of the newest chapter of Wayward and wastes no time escalating things. A theme running through the two non-anthology comics I reviewed this week (this book and From Under Mountains) was old folks in power making the young do their bidding. It's particularly explicit in this title, as it's been clear since the end of the second arc that the protagonists are being manipulated. One of my favorite things about the newest arc in Wayward is the introduction of Segawa Touru, another young gun (this one with the ability to manipulate electronics), but who is being groomed by the opposition.
One of the interesting things about Wayward is that though there are clear realms of protagonists and antagonists (teens are just trying to figure shit out, and ancient manipulative demons are... well, they're ancient manipulative demons), especially as things stand right now, it's not a story about good and bad. It will eventually boil down to that when it needs to (sometimes you just have to kill the shit out of some yokai, you know?), but right now, Wayward is not interested in exploring the *sides* of a conflict.
Wayward has always been an exploration of power, using that power responsibly, and balancing that responsibility with things like love and friendship. Wayward pits a group of teens against a very cool and very Japanese threat, rather than simply building them into some pre-determined, familiar superhero story. Ultimately it all comes down to a similar framework, but the art presents a realistic world that is at all times alive with magical possibilities. More importantly, where the title shares similarities with tired old concepts like the X-Men (such as the discovery of new teens with special abilities), Wayward wraps those abilities in the comfort (and terror) of Japanese folkore. Again, this makes for a much more interesting set of circumstances than merely slotting these characters into preordained, canonical positions.
Segawa's powers are cool. In fact, there was a rather similar new X-Men in Bendis's recent run, who had the power to control vehicles and the like. But the new mutant had only other new mutants and old repetitive stories as his foil. Segawa's counterpart, and the counterpart to all of the original heroes in this title, is a rich cultural world that is built into every page, and capped off with interesting historical context in the book's back matter.
And seriously, Cummings and Bonvillain really bring this story to life. I can't think of many other regular titles that are this colorful without being a mess. So many colorists that go for broke like this are overwhelming in the wrong ways, but Bonvillain has a way of really making you believe in the setting and, importantly, in the magic.
Wayward is a rare book these days that is very clear on its strengths. It's a superpower and coming of age story that mostly reads like the latter, in a market saturated with similar books that have mostly given up trying to be anything more than psuedo-intellectual punch-fests. The violence in this title, even when it's as gratuitous as it becomes in this issue, almost always feels like a footnote to me: that these kids have to fight stuff is always something that is built up to instead of being taken for granted from the beginning of each arc. While the story is also too busy to really focus on the characters as much as it once did, this arc is very much built on the backs of the prevoius two arcs, and things are about as exciting in this title as they have ever been.
Wayward #12 Writer: Jim Zub Artist: Steve Cummings Colorist: Tamra Bonvillain Publisher: Image Comics Price: Digital $2.99 Print $3.50 Release Date: 12/16/15 Format: Ongoing, Print/Digital