That was a drastic change. After initially being pitched as a comic in the realm of the best of Buffy, Wayward is already looking to tackle themes that Buffy didn’t get around to until the latter half of its TV run (the comics never happened in my reality). How this issue changes Wayward’s appeal and audience will only become apparent once readers have gotten their hands on it, but I at least need to give kudos to Jim Zub and Steve Cummings for taking on difficult material. Wayward’s second issue begins once Rori makes it home after her fight last issue alongside the warrior cat-girl Ayane against the demonic kappa. Rather than scold her though, Rori’s mom makes light of her late night out, poising them for some greater dramatic tension later in the series. The bulk of the story focuses on Rori’s first day of school in Japan, and it’s here that the comic chooses to start dumping a ton of exposition in the vein of ‘In X they do it like this, but in Y they do it like this.’ Although it gets tiring after the first few comparisons, Rori’s internal narration continues to evoke sympathy without indulging in too much self-pity. However, once I read the issue’s supplementary material, I found it pretty interesting (and by interesting, I mean the opposite) how this portion of the comic essentially functioned as an illustrated version of the essay.
It’s also while at school that we’re privy to the issue’s most disturbing moment, and it’s pretty remarkable that it’s a scene that involves no Japanese demons or pattern recognition powers. As of this issue, it’s not clear whether Rori’s actions are a direct response to her manifesting powers, or her attempt at reconciling other emotional issues brought on by what seems to have been a troubled upbringing. Either way, I was a little taken aback by it, and didn’t find what followed said scene nearly as compelling despite being introduced to a new character Shira, a Japanese teenager and Rori’s schoolmate who can only sustain himself by eating spirits.
I’m hoping that Zub and Cummings don’t leave us and Rori in the dark much longer about the nature of her power. Its mysterious quality makes the fight scenes a lot less impressive than they ought to be because Rori’s triumphs are only a result of natural ability and instinct, lacking any technique that would her power something more than a flurry of pretty moves that have whatever intended effect the writer needs in each scene.
For a second issue, Wayward isn’t wasting any time getting to what the comic will be about. Not only are people basically flying already, but it’s also certain now that once this first arc is over Rori will have an eclectic supporting cast. Whether this title will function better with less exclusive focus on Rori is hard to say, but I wish Ayane would make her return next issue. Cross fingers.
Writer: Jim Zub Artist: Steve Cummings Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.50 Release Date: 9/24/14 Format: Print/Digital