Review: Wayward Volume 3

Author: Jim Zub
Artists: Steven Cummings, Tara Bonvillain
Issues: 11-15

Spoiler-Free Review
If you’re reading volume 3, I hope you’ve already read what came before and therefore have a handle on the series. It’s not entirely necessary, I think you could follow this book on its own without too much trouble. But the first two books give a lot more context, introduction to characters, time to connect with the story. The first two had more of an emotional pull, for me at least. This one centers on the fallout from actions taken in those, less on character and relationship development.

For those who are totally new to the series, a quick summary. I came to this series based on comparisons to Buffy. The other series recommended to me the same way was a bit of a disappointment, not in that it was bad but because it just didn’t really have the aspects of Buffy that most interested me. This is closer, but it’s still definitely its own thing and has about as much in common with X-Men or The Wicked and the Divine or any other teens-with-superpowers story.

It’s set in Japan and features a group of teens with superpowers who turn out to be the “new gods” of Japan. The older gods aren’t too thrilled with this and are determined to destroy them before they can really come into their own.

At the most basic level, it’s an engaging story with beautiful art and lots of fun to read. If you liked the other things I mentioned, you’ll probably like this too. On a deeper level, the Japanese spirits/monsters/gods featured in the book are based in actual folklore and explained at the back of the book, so it’s been interesting to learn a bit more about mythology that’s not familiar to me. The idea of new gods and new values is also worth exploring, and for further discussion about the book I’d probably want to dive into the teens’ powers and personalities and what they say about contemporary life.

I give it 4/5 stars mostly because as much as I like it when I’m reading it, it hasn’t quite pulled me in enough to seek it out over other things. It’s not a story that sticks in my mind personally.

Personal Reflections
I chose this for the Diverse Book Challenge, in particular for the “diverse folktales/mythology” January prompt. I have mixed feelings about that, because the setting and folklore are Japanese but the author is a white dude and…ehhhhhh. This month I actually have two books for the same category and the other is Navajo stories told by a Navajo, but analyzed and presented by another white dude. I don’t think I did very well with this prompt, to be honest. For future readings I’ll try for diversity in both topics and the people profiting from them. These ones were already on my reading list and easily available on short notice.

So I don’t know how close to the actual folklore these stories (and the information at the back) are. I don’t know if the comic in general is a good representation of Japanese culture (I mean, apart from the supernatural elements). Apart from brief mentions in the few anime/manga series I followed, this is a whole new mythos to me and I’ve enjoyed the introduction. I think before reading any more of this series, though, I’d want to read up a bit more on the mythology from Japanese sources.

It’s interesting to me that I’m reading this alongside other books that touch on some of the same ideas. Young Centurions is a roleplaying game about characters who embody the spirit of whatever century they’re born into. The Wicked and the Divine is about teen gods but also about the culture and the things we value (celebrity culture and fame in particular). This wasn’t planned, but it is a particular interest of mine so I guess it makes sense that when I’m reading several books at once there would be some overlap. The idea of our changing values and the ways that might feed back into changing religious ideas, creation of new gods, etc is fascinating to me and definitely something I want to explore further.

Discussion Questions/Topics
1. The older characters in this book seem to see the contemporary world as self-absorbed, reckless, short-sighted. Do you think that’s true? Can those things be rephrased as values rather than short-comings? Where (if anywhere) do you see deeper, more intentional and lasting values in today’s culture?

2. This book introduces a new character, a god of technology and information. It’s interesting to me that he winds up aligned with the old gods. In terms of the story, that’s because he’s sought out by them. But one thing I find myself arguing a lot is that technology is not new, the technology we have now is just a logical progression. What matters is how you use it rather than the technology itself, and there’s no real reason new technology can’t be integrated with tradition and used to support the way we live rather than change or disrupt it. What does technology add to your life and how could it be used to better your life? In what ways is it damaging and how do you avoid falling into destructive tech-based habits?

3. What do you see as the most present or important values to the culture around you today? What might you expect “new gods” of 2017 to look like and have power over?

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