Wayward, Volume 2: Ties That Bind

Wayward, Volume 2: Ties That BindCreator: Jim Zub and Steve Cummings
Publisher: Image Comics
ISBN: 9781632154033
Released: August 2015
Original run: 2015

Ties That Bind is the second volume of the American comic series Wayward, created by Jim Zub and Steve Cummings and released by Image Comics. Anything having to do with yokai immediately catches my attention, and I had previously read and enjoyed some of Zub’s earlier work, so I was very interested in reading Wayward. I thoroughly enjoyed the first collected volume in the series, String Theory, meaning that there was absolutely no question that I would be picking up the second, too. (Well, at least that was the case before I learned that a deluxe omnibus edition was going to be released—then there was a difficult choice to be made.) Ties That Bind, published in 2015, collects the sixth through tenth issues of Wayward which were originally serialized between March and July 2015. Also included is an introduction by Charles Soule as well as several yokai essays by Zack Davisson which I especially appreciate. For this particular volume, Zub is credited for the story and Cummings for the line art while the credit for the color art goes to Tamara Bonvillain and color flats to Ludwig Olimba.

Emi Ohara’s life follows a simple, predictable routine. Without much variation from day to day she wakes up, goes to school, and returns home. But Emi yearns to have the exciting lives that the heroines of her favorite shoujo manga enjoy. Little does she know that she’ll get what she wished for, but not at all in the way that she expected—Emi discovers she has the ability to manipulate her body and the materials around her in astonishing ways. Suddenly, among other strange developments, her touch is able to melt and mold plastic and her arm can take on the characteristics of metal and glass. At first she thinks it’s all a dream, but then she is chased down by a group of monstrous kitsune only to be rescued by Ayane and Nikaido, two young people who have their own special powers and who are also the yokai’s targets. It’s been three months since the other members of their group, Rori and Shirai, disappeared during the chaos of an epic confrontation with a faction of yokai. At this point Ayane and Nikaido are welcoming any allies they can find, and that includes Emi.

Wayward, Volume 2, page 40Whereas String Theory largely followed Rori’s perspective of the supernatural events unfolding in Tokyo, much of the focus of Ties that Bind is on Emi. Some of the contrasts between the young women as two of the leads in the story are particularly interesting. Rori, who is half-Japanese and half-Irish, is often considered to be an outsider within Japanese society. Emi, on the other hand, is a “proper Japanese girl,” dutiful and obedient even though she finds that role to be increasingly suffocating. Rori is a Weaver with the ability to alter reality and change a person’s fate. (Just how incredibly powerful and far-reaching her talents truly are is still in the process of being revealed, but the continuing development and evolution of her skills in Ties That Bind is impressive.) However, Emi, who like Rori is sensitive to patterns and seems to be able to at least partially identify the course of fate and destiny, feels trapped and unable to make meaningful choices or to change the direction of those events that have already been set in motion.

At times, Wayward can be an extremely violent series. Ayane’s way of taking charge of the situation is to go on the attack, dragging Nikaido and Emi along with her. The yokai, threatened by the very existence of the supernaturally-gifted teens, are more than willing to fight back. The resulting battles are intense, bloody, and even gruesome. But the yokai aren’t united in their efforts—Ties That Bind introduces the tsuchigumo, or dirt spiders, who would seem to have their own agenda. I love that Wayward incorporates the lore and, especially in the case of the dirt spiders, the history surrounding yokai. The series’ interpretation of yokai and traditional tales is its own and is closely integrated with an entirely new, contemporary story. Wayward effectively creates a cohesive and compelling narrative that can be enjoyed by readers who are already familiar with yokai as well as by those who are not. Ties That Bind brings together new characters, new conflicts, and new plot threads while expanding and further developing those that had already been established. Wayward is an excellent series with great art, characters, and story; I’m definitely looking forward to the next volume.

Wayward, Volume 1: String Theory

Wayward, Volume 1Creator: Jim Zub and Steve Cummings
Publisher: Image Comics
ISBN: 9781632151735
Released: March 2015
Original run: 2014

Wayward is an ongoing comic series created by Jim Zub and Steve Cummings and published by Image Comics. Zub, a creator from Canada, is primarily responsible for writing the story while Cummings, currently based in Japan, is the series’ line artist. Along with Tamra Bonvillain, Ross A. Campbell, Josh Perez, and John Rauch, Zub also worked on the comics’ color art with additional flats done by Ludwig Olimba. Wayward was first brought to my attention due to Zub’s involvement—I had previously read and enjoyed some of his other work—but my curiosity was piqued even more when I learned that Zack Davisson was writing bonus material for the series in the form of background information on yokai. It’s not a secret that I have a particular fondness for yokai; I was very interested in seeing what sort of role Japan’s mythological and legendary creatures would play in the comic. The first trade collection, String Theory, was published in 2015. It includes the first five issues of Wayward originally released in 2014 as well as additional essays written by Davisson.

Not long after her parents divorced, Rori Lane left Ireland to be with her mother in Japan. Living with her father just wasn’t working for any of them. Of course, this does mean that Rori will have to start her life over again in a county she’s never even visited. Her mother may be a native Tokyoite, but the city is unlike anywhere else she’s ever been before. For a loner like Rori, and for a young half-Japanese woman such as herself, fitting in and feeling comfortable in Japan and at her new school won’t be an easy task. To complicate matters further, she has a curious but occasionally useful ability that allows her to see the patterns connecting people, places, and events. And to some small extent, she can even control the world around her because of it. By following those threads of destiny, she finds herself drawn to several young people who are also gifted in peculiar ways. It’s good to have found a small group of friends, people around whom she can feel a little more at ease, but it’s not long before they are all pulled into a dangerous power struggle within the city that they don’t even understand.

Wayward, Volume 1, page 4String Theory provides a fantastic start to Wayward, a contemporary fantasy action series with prominent influences drawn from traditional Japanese folklore with modern twists. Rori encounters various yokai throughout String Theory, beginning with a trio of monstrous and extremely dangerous kappa. Although the designs, abilities, and basic natures of the yokai in String Theory are directly inspired by their original counterparts, they are also distinctive to Wayward. It all works very well. The series is action-packed, with dramatic supernatural battles, but it also has more introspective personal conflicts as well. Rori finds herself overwhelmed, thrust into circumstances to which she brings very little knowledge. As String Theory progresses, more and more is revealed about how the world of the series functions as Rori herself begins to piece together how it works. As Rori learns more so do the readers, but there are still plenty of mysteries that have yet to be fully explored.

The worldbuilding in String Theory is excellent. Even with the phenomenal powers of the main characters and the presence of yokai and monsters, the supernatural Tokyo of Wayward looks and feels like a real place. A large part of this is due to Cummings’ wonderful illustrations and the work of the series’ colorists. I love the colors in String Theory. They range from muted and subdued palettes to colors that are flashy and vibrant, almost appearing to glow. String Theory can be violent and grotesque and includes elements of horror, but it is also beautifully illustrated. I also particularly liked the visual representation of Rori’s abilities, reminiscent of the concept of the red string of fate found in Japanese culture. The characters introduced in String Theory are great, too; I’m very curious to see how their fated destinies will continue to weave together. I thoroughly enjoyed the first volume of Wayward—it has chaotic action as well as quiet moments, humor as well as drama—and look forward to the next installment a great deal.

My Week in Manga: September 24-September 30, 2012

My News and Reviews

Since it is the end of one month and the beginning of another, the most recent manga giveaway has been posted. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, so there’s still time to enter for a chance to win the first volume of Mayu Shinjo’s Ai Ore!, Volume 1 as published by Viz Media. The most recent Library Love feature was also posted. Basically, it’s a bunch of quick takes of manga that I borrowed from my library.

Also posted last week was my review of Elements of Manga Style by João Henrique Lopes, a Brazilian artist. Lopes was kind enough to send me a copy of the book for review. I found the subject matter to be fascinating and now want to read more about the theory and design of comics and manga.

Finally, there’s one item of news that I want to mention: Hiroaki Samura’s manga Blade of the Immortal is coming to an end. He’s been working on the series for nineteen years. The English release of Blade of the Immortal (which I am slowly reviewing) is still several volumes behind the Japanese release, but the end is drawing near.

Quick Takes

Barbara by Osamu Tezuka. Barbara is a very odd manga, but I’m not convinced that Tezuka was deliberately trying to be strange; I think it just happened to turn out that way. The manga focuses on Yosuke Mikura, a novelist, who happens across Barbara, a young woman and a drunk destined to become his muse. It is reveled early on that Mikura isn’t a particularly reliable narrator, so there’s always a question of how much of Barbara is the truth and how much of it is his delusions. For me, this was the most fascinating aspect of the manga. The final “twist” to the story was heavily foreshadowed and therefore wasn’t at all surprising, but even though it was completely predictable I did like the ending.

Maka-Maka, Volumes 1-2 by Torajiro Kishi. I haven’t read much explicit, adult-oriented yuri manga, but in my limited experience Maka-Maka is one of the best out there. It’s also completely in color. Each chapter is only about eight pages long and centers around a moment in the lives of Jun and Nene. The two young women are best friends and in Maka-Maka are shown to be almost constantly in each others arms, teasing, fondling, and having sex with each other. Maka-Maka is very voyeuristic but not at all sleazy. It is abundantly clear that Jun and Nene enjoy being with each other. There’s a lot of giggling involved and they are incredibly affectionate. Both Jun and Nene have boyfriends, but their relationship with each other is incredibly important.

Makeshift Miracle, Book 1: The Girl from Nowhere written by Jim Zub and illustrated by Shun Hong Chan. Makeshift Miracle originally started as a webcomic written and illustrated entirely by Zub. The present incarnation has been rewritten and Chan has been brought in to handle the art. So far, the most striking thing about Makeshift Miracle is its gorgeous artwork. The color work in particular is beautiful and dreamy. Plot-wise, not much has happened yet, the first book mostly serves to set the mood and scenario, but I find myself intrigued. I’m particularly curious about and amused by Esurio. Current plans are for the next volume to be released in 2013. I’ll certainly be keeping my eye out for it.

Otomen, Volumes 6-10 by Aya Kanno. I am still really enjoying this series. Even though it has a serious and honest message, Otomen is frequently silly and even ridiculous. But that’s what makes it such a delightfully fun series for me. That and Asuka is absolutely adorable when he blushes, which is often. The characters face trials and tribulations, but for the most part Otomen is a fluffy, feel-good manga. Granted, the characters aren’t particularly complex or deep, but I do like them. Which is good, because more and more characters keep being introduced. Technically, Otomen is a romantic comedy so supposedly there’s an overarching story dealing with the romance between Asuka and Ryo, but that particular plot point is going nowhere fast.

Rurouni Kenshin, Omnibus 4 (equivalent to Volumes 10-12) by Nobuhiro Watsuki. The long Kyoto arc continues! I find that I generally prefer the longer more involved stories in Rurouni Kenshin over the shorter ones. This particular arc has taken a few detours along the way, but I’m glad to see that the main cast has finally been reunited. As much as I like Kenshin as a character, I think the manga works best when his “family” is around him. I was pleased to see more of Kenshin’s past and background revealed in this omnibus, specifically his younger years before he became the skilled swordsman that he now is. As part of this, the master swordsman he was raised by and studied under is also introduced, which was nice to see.

Slam Dunk, Episodes 1-23 directed by Nobutaka Nishizawa. I haven’t read much of Takehiko Inoue’s Slam Dunk manga yet, preferring his more serious works, but I was still excited to discover that the anime adaptation of the series was available in English. I’m not quite a quarter of the way through the anime and there’s only been one real basketball game so far, which surprised me. I was particularly impressed that almost an entire episode was able to devote itself to a single minute of game time without losing my interest or feeling too drawn out. While the comedic elements are definitely still there, it seems like Slam Dunk is becoming more dramatic and serious as the series progresses. I’m looking forward to watching more.