By Jim Zub, Steve Cummings, Tamra Bonvillain, Marshall Dillon, and Zack Davisson
Apparently, the Japanese word for “bananas” is in fact, “bananas.” This is wonderfully apropos because whatever language or culture one may be most familiar with, the contents of Wayward #5 is universally bananas. Continuing the clever blend of Miyazaki-like wonder with mythological horror, ancient mysticism and even superheroics, this concluding chapter to the series’ opening arc is as delightfully boggling and awe-inspiring as its predecessors. Fervently thrusting the story forward with devil-may-care enthusiasm, there are more questions than answers to be found within (though be sure to pay attention to Zack Davisson’s insightful back matter) but Wayward dances on the page with beautiful art and a whimsical feel, even when the happenings are dire. And in this fifth issue, they are as dire as ever.
If you haven’t been following the series thus far, the barrier to entry isn’t nearly as daunting as it may seem at the first glance of fox-warriors and magical glowing thread worms and cat armies and…okay, that does sound confusing. But that sheer bombardment of ideas has been flowing through the veins of Wayward since its debut issue, with priority placed largely on the big picture and allowing for Zub to develop his characters primarily through their actions and not panel after panel of introspective teen angst. If you just pick up this issue, you’ll won’t be too far behind those who have been on board since the beginning and it will likely have you enraptured enough to go back and pick up the first four issues without hesitation.
Picking up immediately from last issue with our Rori’s exasperating realization, she immediately charges to the rescue leaving her companions safely amidst the rubble. She flies and runs at tremendous speeds, which are both new abilities previously unseen. That’s typical of how the book operates, having Rori be the readers’ entry point and learning her abilities on the job at the same speed as the reader, with about an equal amount of warning or explanation. While that is exhilarating, Zub leaves the reader little time to revel in the fun as the issue turns gravely dark – much more so than it has up until this point. A brutal act of violence begets an even larger conflict that culminates in thunderous destruction. There are the smallest of hints, the restrained doling out of information as to how large a canvas this story is painting on, from Zub that reassures the breadth of the story going forward, but this particular issue’s story serves to provide the major dramatic reversal for Rori. She’s been given motivation from the darkest of places and the girl we knew getting off that plane in issue one will likely not be seen again.
Steve Cummings’ line is confident as hell, injecting honest emotion into every facial expression and rugged detail in every crevice of rubble. There’s an energy to his art that makes it quite clear he is loving drawing this book. There is no way he can draw a cadre of cats attacking two samurai fox-warriors without having cracked a smile with every stroke. Beyond his rendering ability, Cumming’s has made some brilliant character design choices as well blending together multiple eras and genres, most enjoyably of all in the straw chapeau’d Nurarihyon (read the back matter!). This issue highlights the languid nature of Cumming’s skills, with the serpentine spirit-threads, arching tails and flowing skirts, but is balanced with the heavy mass of collapsing buildings and the associated detriments. A lot of that weight and whimsy can be credited to colorist Tamra Bonvillain, with this issue marking her first solo outing after John Rauch’s tenure for the first few issues. Unlike the glossy sheen of Rauch’s colors, which never felt quite right, Bonvillain grounds this book in a world rich with texture. Sure, the glowing red threads and luminescent spirit blues are as haunting as ever, but the worn ruddy concrete of floors and bruised faces and blood stained shirts all come together into a package that makes this feel like an actual lived-in world. Well, lived-in by monsters anyway.
While the issue does end on a pseudo-cliffhanger, one in which the actual outcome cannot possibly be in question, it is a vigorously successful closing chapter to the opening season of Wayward. Reading the story up until now has felt like trying to hop on a rapidly accelerating train and only being able to hold onto the railing as it zooms forward. Who is that? What was that? Wait, did that thing just..? Who cares! This is one of the most fun rides in comics, and one that should appeal to a very wide audience with its blend of genres and vibrant art. It could likely stand to let things breath for a moment when it returns in March 2015, let the dust settle a little so all involved can get their bearings. But Zub and co. probably will return with their feet on the pedal, giving you the perfect excuse to go and catch-up on this uniquely charming series. What’s the Japanese word for “Dramamine”?