Smells Like Teen Spirit
released OUT NOW! Publisher Marvel Comics
Writer rainbow rowell Artist Kris anka
It can often seem like DC and Marvel readers only want to read about tried-and-trusted classic heroes, but new characters do sometimes manage to make a firm impression. One good example is the Runaways team, a group of Marvel heroes who debuted in 2003, and are now back in a new ongoing series – the first since 2009 – that coincides with a US TV adaptation of the series that’s now running on Hulu.
The original set-up is that a group of teens discover that their parents are all supervillains, and immediately end up on the run with only one another to rely on. Each teen has different abilities or powers, and the series has never been afraid to kill off major characters. At the beginning of this relaunch, the team has fractured and gone their separate ways after a series of adventures.
However, one of the Runaways then travels back in time and undoes their biggest casualty, bringing deceased team-mate Gert back to life. Shocked that the team she viewed as a surrogate family has fallen apart, Gert sets out to reunite the group – but she doesn’t realise that evil forces are already massing against them…
Runaways has always worked best by tapping into a Buffy The Vampire Slayer-esque style of metaphor, transforming normal teen anxieties into action-packed superhero adventures. This new incarnation of the series finds its strongest moments by capturing the same emotive style, and across the first three issues Rainbow Rowell’s script hits some affecting notes as it brings the characters together again.
Unfortunately, the opening issue is almost a colossal misfire, thanks to a stunningly incoherent narrative. It’s old news that Marvel rarely cares about creating accessible jumping-on points for new readers, but the first half of issue one is a particularly awkward example, featuring clumsy visual storytelling and a distinct lack of explanation.
It’s an opening that will confuse the hell out of anyone unfamiliar with previous Runaways stories (especially the circumstances of Gert’s death) – which is a pity, since the series gains more focus as it goes on and shows strong signs of improvement in issues two and three.
Added to this is Kris Anka’s characterful art, which is at its best in the quieter sequences, adding the right level of drama to the various reunions, while also emphasising the physical changes the characters have gone through since they were last together.
Hopefully future issues of this Runaways relaunch can build on these strengths and avoid further slip-ups, as when this teenage adventure works, it’s seriously engaging superhero fun. Saxon Bullock
Teenage anxieties are transformed into action adventures
Two panels later, he’d bitten her head off.