Those children are the Gods of this age.

Their fuel is the manufactured world around them…

...and the anger they feel toward things they do not understand…

They have no loyalty, no sense of history…

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...only the unconfrollable impulses of their fractured emotions.

I stand between the past and the future…

...watching the bridge crumble before my eyes.

Rori Lane and Shirai have reemerged from traveling the threads of fate and time, much to the relief and surprise of their friends Ayane, Nikado, and Ohara. After declaring themselves the new gods of Japan and war on the old guard, the yokai, Rori and her friends take to hiding and planning their next attack. The problem, however, is that Rori hasn’t quite recovered from wielding so much power and travelling through the chaos of time—leaving her susceptible to other influences, like spider-mistress Jorōgumo, who seeks to use the young gods’ new powers for her own ends. With a possessed Rory at the helm, the new young gods of Japan are angry and hungry—and they will destroy all the yokai in their wake of chaos.

While Rory and her friends are on the offensive, finding and killing the monsters who have ruled from the shadows for so long, one old monster observes and plans. The Nurarihyon, the yokai in a seersucker suit and barbershop quartet flat hat, knows that he and his kind have ruled Japan for so long from the shadows—manipulating threads of destiny to their own ends. Theirs was a reign of secrecy, control, and a kind of brutal elegance to their closed system of balance—but now, with the rise of these teenage gods, all of that wobbles precariously. “This is life on the edge of extinction,” he says. He knows that he and his kind must adapt to survive, or burn. The Nurarihyon intends to live, and will make one last grand plan to stop the new gods—though it means breaking many of his own rules.

The newest trade paperback of Wayward, this third volume collects issues 11-15 of the ongoing series written by Jim Zub with art by Steve Cummings. It's no secret that I'm a big fan of the series overall—the triumphant first two arcs are imaginative, beautiful, and powerful. I've written at length about the care that Zub takes with regards to culture (and refrains from exoticizing Japan) in this third volume.

It’s interesting, because every arc of the comic follows a different main character/narrator, as it were. First, there’s Rory Lane, struggling to make sense of her new world as a biracial girl thrust into a new environment (and discovers she has superpowers, to boot). Then, there’s Ohara Emi in the second arc, who fights the established, accepted, expected role of the docile, perfect daughter and unleashes her own power and rage. In this latest arc, the main character is not Rory or Ohara or any of the new children; it is a monster responsible for so much death and destruction, cast in an almost sympathetic light. The Nurarihyon is an old god, one who tries to control the destiny of his world through magic and manipulation, and who now teeters on the edge of irrelevance and extinction. The storyline in this third arc is one of change and progress, and the destructive, chaotic madness that can follow in its wake. The Nurarihyon, in contrast, yearns to maintain not only his own survival, but the survival of order and process—something of which these emotional young gods, to his mind, know nothing.

The result is… mixed. I feel for the Nurarihyon, and the old guard and the bastions of power structures from the past. But I also understand the rage against that power, the destructive anger of the young who have been ignored and underserved. In today’s political climate, the message is all the more relevant and poignant—what change is good change? How far will rage and destruction carry?

While the message is strong, I’m a little underwhelmed by the lack of our heroes in this book and wished for more Rory, Ohara, and Ayane in particular. There’s a lot of action here, but I wish there was a little more character building. This feels very much like a bridge arc, one that sets the stage and pieces for the big things to come—and by story’s end, Rory is awake and aware, and a BIG change has happened. (Hint, Rory’s dad comes into full play and it’s SURPRISING, people.) Plus, there are a few great new characters introduced in this arc—including a fox Ronin—and I’m very keen on seeing more.

I’ll be back for volume 4, very soon.

In Book Smugglerish, 7 ronin out of 10.