Smells Like Teen Spirit

SFX - - Reviews - Rain­bow Row­ell got the gig be­cause a Marvel ed­i­tor was “emo­tion­ally de­stroyed” by her YA ro­mance Eleanor & Park.

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.

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