Big things were happening for our main characters last time in Wayward: Rori had essentially declared war on the Yokai and that was going to be a huge problem for everyone. So what happens now as we enter the third arc? Is it good?
Wayward #11 (Image Comics)
So… Rori Lane has essentially started a war with the Yokai and all of their allies. Things are not exactly looking up, especially with these new developments happening: Emi Ohara’s discovery of her family, more people with powers appearing, the villains upping their game, and the arrival of another figure. All in all, the cast, especially Rori, is in for a very hard time in the future.
The biggest thing that has been holding Wayward back is its pacing and execution. The series has the foundation of a good story and a lot of good ideas and concepts, almost trying to go for an American version of a manga. However, the series has been always moving way too quickly, not spending enough time on developing what it has, and making jumps forward in its narrative sporadically. Wayward #11, I am happy to report, is the opposite of that. Jim Zub spent the majority of the issue focusing on the immediate after effects of the last arc and what happened to the characters. There was no jump forward, but instead a focus on the now and how the protagonists and antagonists were dealing with the fallout. It allowed for tiny bits of character growth or at least, quiet moments where the characters just talked (and it wasn’t just exposition). The story never felt too fast and just proceeded along at a reasonable pace. This was good and I hope Zub keeps up this pace going forward.
With a better pacing and somewhat improved execution (we’ll get to that when we discuss the characters), the writing felt improved as well. Dialogue wasn’t mostly just about pushing the plot forward or delivering exposition, but letting the characters talk normally and having a more human tone to them (like Ohara talking about wanting to see her family again with Nikaido). We actually spent some time with one of the villains and seeing his perspective of things, which helps make him more three-dimensional. The story is actually following up on a huge and extremely questionable plot point from the ninth issue that really needed to be addressed (though, how Zub handles it could be either really good or really bad). Plus, the ending is good and opens the door for a lot of ways to go, even if, admittedly, it was a pretty predictable twist from the moment the last scene started. For the first time in a long time, I’m genuinely excited to see where this series goes now that things are looking up.
Pfft! You just don’t get manga!
Then we turn to the artwork by Steven Cummings and it looks as good as usual. There’s a bit more creativity with the layouts this time around, which makes some of the pages look more interesting and exciting. The characters are drawn decently (some expressions feel a bit wonky in areas), the designs on the monsters still look nice, and the scenery looks good. Though, what really makes this artwork look half as good as it does is Tamra Bonvillain’s coloring. She makes all the visuals and supernatural elements really pop and stand out with the bright and light colors used.
Now that writing has improved, the comic’s biggest issue is the likeability and characterization of most of its characters. Outside of Ohara and one of the villains, Zub still has not done much with fleshing out the characters. Rori Lane is probably the worst character in the book now and she’s the lead character. Rori has barely gotten any development since the first arc (does anyone remember that she used to cut herself?) and anything she has gotten so far has come out of nowhere or has made her rather unlikeable. She mindwiped and erased the existence of Ohara from her family’s memories (it was especially bad since she did not consult, tell, or even meet Ohara before doing it), started a war with the Yokai haphazardly without thinking of what could happen from doing so, and blew up several power sources recklessly (hope there weren’t any civilians or innocents around). This past arc did not do her any favors and this new issue did not remotely go towards redeeming her in any way.
Everyone else is just sort of flat. Ayane is still around, but she hasn’t developed beyond her obsessive behavior towards Rori. Shirai is the same, though a bit more dickish since he didn’t try to tell Ohara about what Rori did. Nikaido is still just a blank slate with no real backstory to him at all. These are all characters that desperately need some development or more focus than what they are getting currently, especially when the villains are starting to feel almost more sympathetic strangely enough. I mean sure, they wanted to hurt these kids and they killed Rori’s mother (which is bad naturally), but beyond that, we really haven’t seen anything truly villainous from them. The writer, at this point, really needs to spend more time developing his existing characters and allow for us to start caring about them and stop introducing new ones.
Smokey won’t approve of that.
Is It Good?
Wayward #11 feels like a step in the right direction for the series, something that was really needed for a very long time, and is easily the best issue of the series. The writing has improved greatly with Jim Zub taking his time with the plot, allowing for more breathing room for the characters and to see the fallout from the last arc in action. However, the series is still in some desperate need of more character growth and development for the leads, especially with how unlikeable Rori has become. However, more than ever before, I am curious about what Wayward has in store going forward.