Wayward #8 launched this week, marking the return of Rori and Shirai as well as introducing a new time travel mechanic to the series. Jim Zub and Steve Cummings take a break from the action to provide new context and higher stakes for the second arc of their series. The issue made for a nice step away from the yokai-fighting action to focus on the relationships between the heroes.
Rori has technically been missing since the climactic battle at the end of fifth issue, though she’s been appearing as a red apparition to the new character Ohara Emi. This issue opens with Rori and Shirai finally escaping from within Rori’s powers and landing outside of Myoneko Temple. While Rori is fine, Shirai is in agony having consumed too much energy during the aforementioned battle. With the help of an elderly woman named Ayane (who has a strange affiliation with stray cats) Rori manages to heal Shirai’s spirit and in doing so glimpses the threads that tie time and space together. It’s then that she realizes she has travelled to the future and must return to the present if her friends are going to survive. Meanwhile, back in the present, Ayane has made a troubling alliance in their ongoing fight against evil.
There was a lot to unpack in this issue, but even with the heavy plot development the pacing was steady and crisp. Zub’s level of control in this issue was impressive, spacing out the details just enough to maximize the information without bogging down the story. The storyline is split here between Rori and Shirai in the future and the rest of the gang in the present. It made for some nice contrasts as Rori and Shirai grow closer and the rest of the gang drifts apart. The stage has been nicely set for conflict within the group through the rest of the arc. It was also nice to see Rori back at the center of the issue. She remains one of the most interesting characters and her interactions with Shirai helped keep the book grounded despite the supernatural concepts. I’m excited to see her rejoin Ayane and Nikaido in the present.
Every time I think Cummings’ art has peaked in the series, the next issue manages to blow me away. This issue is no exception, including some of the artist’s best work on the series. The switching between reality and the supernatural within the same panel looks gorgeous, especially thanks to Tamra Bonvillain’s excellent coloring work. But it’s the use of splash pages to convey the past and future where the art truly shines. The design on the double page spread is nothing short of stunning and deserves a print immediately. You’re getting your money’s worth on those two pages alone.
Wayward #8 is another solid issue, though at this point I expect nothing less. Zub and Cummings hit their stride early in the series and have only improved since. Wayward is absolutely a book that belongs on everybody’s pull list.