If ever there was a moment worthy of a mic drop, it’s the last page of Wayward #10. This issue marks the end of the second act of the overall story, with Rori Lane and her friends standing up against their supernatural enemies with boldness and defiance. They know their place now, and it’s enough to make the bad guys tremble.
The issue overall is a “final” battle as our ragtag group of teens bring the battle to their foes, a hidden sanctuary of magical power that’s been secretly controlled by the supernatural. Each of the characters get spotlighted well, and the battle overall is nicely staged. The art helps sell the scene, as the characters are fluid and expressive, the choreography is well-integrated to the backgrounds, and the colors make the whole thing pop. The colors include some nice reds and oranges, not only because of the fire and blood that’s in the scene, but also because of the vibrant tension that helps the set the tone.
Some other questions are answered here, too; most notably, where the heck is the main character? Rori Lane returns fully to the series after four issues (four months?) or so, and is the one who offers the mic drop moment on the final page. It’s an intriguing and exciting moment, but does point out one of the flaws of the series. In other words, the entire premise of the book was built around this one character, who was summarily taken out of the story at the end of the first act (issue 5.) While there have been teases of her return, the series shifted entirely to a different character, Emi. It was a bit unsatisfying to invest so much into Rori and then essentially to be told to ignore her, with all her mysteries unresolved, and focus on someone new. Especially when other characters that have been around (like Nikaido) have yet to be given any spotlight.
There seems to be a lot of story that’s been taken for granted. Rori declares to her enemies “you tried to separate us,” which, OK, I guess that was a product of some plot stuff but it wasn’t really explained that way before. She says “[you tried to] control us,” which, no, I don’t really remember that happening. And she says “[you tried to] hunt us down,” which, yes, *that* I agree with and was what I thought the series was about. If some of that other stuff was happening, it was maybe assumed more than shown, or otherwise was not as explicit.
As always, though, the comic is just as much about the world building overall as about the characters. We are continually presented with a world with layers— the real world and its overlay of a secret, supernatural world. Japan makes a perfect setting for this, with nearly every aspect of the culture containing some hidden meaning or pointing to some mythological connection. Having lived in Japan for five years, I enjoy this comic as a nostalgia trip, too. The setting is so completely realized in story, tone, and in pictures.
While I could praise the art for its superb character design and near-perfect landscapes/setting, sometimes the devotion to the setting is a bit too much. Nearly every panel has a background that aims for realism, to the point where sometimes the characters get overwhelmed. Or more specifically, the drama of the characters gets lost. There are times when I would prefer a close up, a more creative dramatic angle, or something that feels less stilted or too staged.
Also, every issue has the first panel telling us things are “translated from the Japanese,” and with every single speech balloon in the issue having those brackets “<“ “>” We get it. You’re set in Japan. This played better when Rori was changing from Japanese to English multiple times on a page in the first issue or so, but now it’s just weird.
Overall, for fans of magical reality stories, this is an engaging story overall with the real selling point the magical reality itself. I haven’t been steadily reviewing it for WCBR, but I’ve been enjoying it nonetheless. This issue caps the second act of the overall story, and both acts can be picked up in trade paperback: Wayward: String Theory (issues 1-5) and Wayward: Ties That Bind (issues 6 -10).
Issue #10 caps off the second act of Wayward’s storyline (and marks a brief hiatus as the creators ramp up for the next act) with an extended battle against supernatural forces. There’s still some intriguing mysteries, and the forces of the world (mundane and supernatural) are not as cut and dry, black and white, good and evil as you might expect. Hopefully, the cliffhanger page marks the end of a few problems of the series, such as the absence of the main character, and we can delve even more into the world of Wayward.