I find it hard to believe it’s been 4 years since I was first contacted by a lone Eastern Europeanish immigrant named Jim Zubkavich. Traveling by steamer ship from the same piece of shit country as Balki from Perfect Strangers, I received his telegraph requesting coverage of his book SKULL KICKERS, which would be his indentured servitude golden ticket to America.
Now he’s a shining example of the American Dream and how indentured servitude is really a great piece of currency, the kavich has left the building and Jim Zub delivers another comic problem solver with WAYWARD 1.
That’s right, a comic problem solver. Anyone can write a story or lasso words around editorial edicts, but the ones worth remembering always stand at the ready to fill a void or vacuum.
Back then, with SKULL KICKERS Kavich showed us that comics could be fun as his nameless D&D characters pretty much kicked a bunch of skulls inside the story wrappers of every fantasy trope imaginable. 2010 was a bummer fucking year as the Big 2 put their current universes in neutral and took all the top talent to the board room to usher in the Meticulously Measured Metrics Age of comics. Kavich said, no silly Americans, do not be sad the beetle blues has been shot by the Lord of Foldgers, laugh at my silly dwarf man instead.
Today, Zub fixes a problem that has been screaming at comics since the first bra was burned and yet amidst that screeching there is still so little problem solving – that’s right, I’m talking about some lady protagonisting. Not only does Zub go lady, he actually goes teenage lady, and I’ll tell you that it definitely works.
Rori Lane is not only about to undergo a fantastic journey filled with comic bookey stuff, but she’s also on a journey of discovery as a stranger in a strange land that I already find equally if not more intriguing than the fantasy. Her half Irish, half Japanese decent only lasted until her parents divorce. Mom gets Rori, so Rori gets to move to Tokyo.
Zub paints the perfect balance of wonderment and fear in Rori as she navigates a land that many foreigners will never quite “get,” until they actually experience it. However, the land of the rising sun also activates something in Rori that I can only best describe as Splinter Cell vision. Rori begins to see pathways, or when put to good use, a strategic line to overcome any point A to point B obstacle.
Now, where most assholes would simply use this ability to YouTube X-Treme Parkor, Rori’s mettle is actually tested her first afternoon in town by Turtles in a half shell with big ass slobbering teeth and ironically bird flu (OK I made up the last part). Until a girl with an uncanny ability to summon felines and become cat like herself mysteriously saves Rori and then quickly abandons her. Not before getting some strange milk from a vending machine to solidify once more how strange Eastern culture is to us Western world folks.
What this review is missing is how well Zub paints these moments. Rori’s journey, the loss of her parent’s love for each other, how bat shit crazy Japan is for first timers, because he does it all in masterful and authentic detail. Steve Cummings is simply a new God of comic drawing, my jaw continued to lower to the floor page after beautiful page.
Sorry to tease WAYWARD so far ahead of release, but that’s comics folks. Retailers must order now, they believe they are people too, and so they sometimes need a little help stocking the shelves before you consumer types start navigating them. There are a deluge of titles coming from every corner of comics and Image is certainly one of the most massive #1 producers in recent memory. Out of all those so many books of genesis I’ve enjoyed, WAYWARD is one of the first that I feel is as much needed as it is entertaining.