Creators: Casey Blandford, Val Wise, DJ Chavis, Nikki Powers, Sunita Balsara, Katie Hicks, Seungwoo Baek, Grayson F. Lee, Cam Lopez, gillian blekkenhorst, Mary Verhoeven, Ardo Omar, Shae Beagle, Caitlin Quirk, JesnCin, Goldie Shen, Joyce Chau, Amber Huff, Sherin Nicole, K. Kelsay, Tate Brombal, V. Gagnon, Day Irwin, Izzy Hall, Andi Santagata, Angela Cole, Cheryl Yong, H. Pueyo, Dante Luiz, Alex Cruz, Sarah Hickey, Meaghan Carter, Kandace Coston, Tess Enli Reid, Rowan MacColl, Gica Tam, Colleen Loges, Te’Sdawn Dwyer, Lyrdia Collins, Julia Vohl / Editors: Allison O’Toole, Ashanti Fortson, Kat Vendetti / TO Comix
Every family has a story.
Perhaps more crucially, every family has stories, tall tales that get passed down throughout generations and retold time and time again because they weave an important tapestry, forge connections between the past and present, and light the way to the future. In these times where some of us are required to be physically distant from our families and our loved ones, there is something to be said about the comfort found in stories about familial love, about the bonds we share: no matter how conventional or unconventional. Which is why I’m personally thankful for the latest collection from Toronto Comix, Wayward Kindred. I had backed this book on Kickstarter last year, and just this past Sunday afternoon sat down in my living room with my tablet and started scrolling through the seventeen different stories. As I read each one, certainly there were some that resonated more, but there is a common thread: a sense of magic, a warmth in the chest, a kind smile and nod of the head.
In all the ways that matter in these uncertain times, Wayward Kindred succeeded in telling unique stories that broke the conventional mold in particular ways. There was a delicate balance between whimsical sensibility and somber moments of reflection. The end product is one I highly recommend.
The Many Meanings of Blood
In the words of TO Comix, Wayward Kindred is the spiritual sequel to Wayward Sisters, and is themed around family dynamics intersected with monsters of all sorts of varieties from a wide range of cultures and sources. The opener, “Grounded”, starts out with a son getting in an argument with his mother about having to stay home to take care of a chore and while the build up leads you think to that the dramatic reveal will be “That my mom is a… a vampire? Not even human?” we’re instead met with the phrase “A strzyga? Not even human?” and it was that precise moment that I uttered “oh” to no one in particular, but it was that panel that explained what Wayward Kindred intended to do: tell the specific story without apology, without fear, without hesitation. At no point in the narrative did the characters ever explain what a strzyga in any expository detail. Instead, we got to glean information that the author Casey Blandford, artist Val Wise, and colorist DJ Chavis presented to us in the comic format. This allows us to make inferences and draw conclusions without an index or excessive footnotes. Often times, when exploring the less mainstream myths, it’s very easy to want to over explain and educate, but this does not happen. But instead, we are entrusted that we don’t need the details to understand the heart of the story and that if we want to know more about this Slavic demon, the onus is on us to research this. That type of trust is joyful in more ways that one.
Each of the stories interprets the base premise of monstrous families in widely different directions, but they all feel unified and cohesive. Certainly part of this is due to the recurring letterer Nikki Powers who is featured repeatedly throughout the collection and the editorial vision of O’Toole, Fortson, and Vendetti. There is an enduring sense of optimism present throughout the anthology, even the most somber narratives provide a strong sense of hope.
A Curated Selection
I don’t have the word count to further dissect each story, which range between eight to sixteen pages by my estimates, but I do want to call out a few in a particular that particularly resonate for one reason or another.
“The Egret Widow” by writer Goldie Shen and artist Joyce Chau features some of the most beautiful artwork I’ve ever seen, and the grand story of inheritance is truly touching. “The God of Roadsides” by writer Tate Brombal and artist V. Gagnon is equally magnificent in its artistry and a unique approach to narrative. “Sap and Seed” by writer H. Pueyo and and artist Dante Luiz is a wonderfully picturesque tale as well that I would describe as a comic book take on a Tarot card, which I admit is an odd analogy, but it’s a touching tale of sibling love.
My second favorite story of the entire collection has to be “Common Grounds and Various Teas”, words by Sherin Nicole and artist Amber Huff. I’m particularly fond of road trip narratives, but this quickly distinguishes itself to be a magnificent case study in names, legacy, and the evolution of storytelling in the age of social media. There’s a lot to love there.
However, by far the story that has buried itself in my conscious is, “I Remember the Flowers from June,” by writer Alex Cruz and artist Sarah Hickey. This is very much because Alex Cruz is a Filipino telling a story about a Filipino myth. But isn’t that the greatest things about reading comics? Finding that one story that means everything to you because you never thought you’d see that story told and now it’s yours? It’s a difficult story for sure, but it’s one well worth the price of admission alone.
Recognition Where It Is Due
Wayward Kindred is also great because it features things like the pronouns and social media information for each of their creators and a comprehensive list of content warnings that you’re able to engage with as needed. At the end of the collection, there is a series of beautiful prints on top of all of that. It is such a fantastic anthology that collects a diverse list of creators and lets them ran rampart and play with the comic media in exciting ways.
It’s the perfect read for the long weekend (or any day of the week given our current situation) and you can purchase it PDF right now for $15, and that my friends and readers, is a goddamn steal.
9.3 “Blood Ties” out of 10