Runaways, Vol. 1-3 by Brian K. Vaughan (illustrated by Adrian Alphona)
Published: Marvel (2004-2005), eBook, 432pg
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy, Crime, Fantasy, Fiction, GLBTQ, Graphic Novel, Sci-fi, Urban Fantasy
Source: Marvel Unlimited
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When six friends discover their parents are all secretly super-villains, they run away from home and straight into the adventure of their lives – vowing to turn the tables on their evil legacy.
Okay, so this is the first major story arc for Runaways (I think). These three volumes comprise a complete story, so theoretically you could stop there and be perfectly happy!1
I was perfectly happy, because I love stories about teenage superheroes having personal problems. The fact that their personal problems consisted of evil supervillian parents was just icing on the cake. Other personal problems: friendship, learning to trust, betrayal, romance and squishy teenage feelings, sometimes sounding like they spent too much time watching Dawson’s Creek or whatever show was popular back when this series ran, and not being particularly good at the homeless teenager lifestyle.
The best part of Runaways is for sure the development from regular-but-scrappy teens into semi-cohesive hero squad. Each teen has a different style of superpower, like a 5 man band kind of thing. It takes them a while, and there’s plenty of stumbling blocks, but it’s so great watching them grow as a team to take on evil and win through the power of friendship!
Having super-powers helps too, of course. One of the nicer (and occasionally annoying) aspects of the Runaways universe is that it isn’t afraid to mess around with the established tropes of superhero comics. For example! Cloak and Dagger, two minor Spider-man characters brought over for a few issues, got their powers through drugs. Several characters then ask them what sort of example that gives kids– which pisses of C&D because they never wanted to be role models in the first place. It’s hilarious.
More examples: the kids take on codenames for a few issues, but then give them up. They don’t really have costumes (just good fashion sense). There are more female characters than male. The team’s diversity is super high (not even including species differences). And several adult superheroes try to get them to quit the heroic stuff because they think the kids will be messed up for life (this is explored more in the second series).
There’s actually quite a few cameos from other series’ superheroes, which felt a little like when a sitcom suddenly gets popular and starts bringing in a lot of guest stars. It’s nice the first few times, but after a while you just want it to stop.
The art is very solid; colorful and simple, but not in an ugly way. Only thing I didn’t like was the MANY panels of characters screaming something (or smiling or opening their mouth to speak) up into the “camera” floating right above their head. It looked really weird, idk.
I definitely recommend Runaways with the caveat that, despite all the things I liked about it, I don’t think it’s as well-written as some of Brian K. Vaughan’s other series.2 It feels like an early work, kinda like he was still finding his footing? But if you don’t mind that, and if you like fun stories about friendship and mutant powers, you should check it out.
Read: July 25-26, 2014