Runaways comics review

runaways comic cover

Runaways is a fantastic manga-fusion American comic about a group of children on the run from their supervillian parents…

From Gert the cynical anti-capitalist to Alex the funky computer nerd and the group’s leader, Nico Minoru the loli goth, discover Runaways and open your eyes to a bright new future of American graphic novels.

The premise of Runaways is simple: six kids in Los Angeles find out that their parents are supervillains, and they run away from home and try to find ways to defeat them.

Alex Wilder, Gertrude Yorkes, Chase Stein, Karolina Dean, Nico Minoru, and Molly Hayes are six kids, ranging from 12 to about 17, living in LA. They exist within the established Marvel universe, meaning that heroes like Spider-Man, Captain America, and Wolverine, as well as supervillains like Dr. Octopus and Dr. Doom live in their world as well. But these kids also live in our world. There are many references to pop culture and these six kids have never experienced super hero reality The closest iPod-loving Alex ever got was when he played online games with his friends.

Every year, six families get together so the parents can get stuff done for the charitable organization that they work for. At least that’s what they tell their children. On these annual get-togethers, the six kids, who aren’t big fans of each other, are forced to hang out together and find ways to pass the time.

Gert is a cynical girl who can’t stand capitalist culture (if you’ve ever read/seen Ghost World, she’s very much like Enid) while Chase is a lacrosse player with not much between her pretty ears. Nico is a Victorian lolitat goth and tiny tomboy Molly is a young firecracker. Karolina is an outgoing daughter of two movie stars living the American Dream while Alex is a calm and collected, somewhat shy boy who’s most comfortable with the world of music and computers.

One year, the kids decide that they are fed up with waiting for their parents to finish their business, so they decide to spy on the group, only to witness their parents murder a young woman. Terrified by the act, the group decides to run away. Soon, each child learns that they have received some sort of ability or gift from their parents. Gert, whose parents are time travellers, finds a genetically modified raptor that she can telepathically communicate with, Chase steals some gadgets and weapons from his inventor parents, and Nico learns that she, along with her parents, are sorcerors. Meanwhile, Karolina and her family are aliens with powers drawn from the Earth’s sun, and Molly learns that she comes from a family of mutants. While Alex doesn’t have any hypernatural abilities, he, along with his parents, is a master strategist.

Using their newfound abilities, the Runaways vow to atone for their parents’ sins and become a West Coast-based team of superheroes while living on the streets.

Despite being about a group of teenagers (and one pre-teen), this isn’t kids’ stuff. The interplay between the kids as they forced themselves into adult situations with only their teenage education and experience to help them makes for brilliant reading. Runaways gets dark and occasionally quite adult at times, and issues associated with real teenagers are twisted to fit the storyline. Nico is a self-harmer, for instance – not to release her anger, but in order to get access to her magic staff, much to the disgust of the other five kids who rely on her self-harming to get them out of trouble.

The characters in Runaways are well developed with beautifully natural dialogue. Karolina may seem like a perky Hollywood girl on the outside, but there is a lot more going on under the surface. Molly may be the most powerful Runaway but as a pre-teen she’s also the youngest and frustrated by the others’ attempts to shelter her. There are tons of pop culture references in this book, old and new. The Who, The Beatles, and James Dean’s Rebel Without A Cause are all worked into the story, but that doesn’t mean that things like The Matrix, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Smallville (a show involving a DC Comics character, mind you, even though this is a Marvel universe) also make the book.

A mix of American comic book art and anime, each character has their own distinctive look to them, and artists Takeshi Miyazawa and Adrian Alphona create illustrations so beautiful that each panel on the page could be framed and turned into a Gorillaz album cover. You won’t feel like an idiot reading this book on the train – it’s not all men in tights. Streetwise and hip young gentlemen will ignore their mobile phones and skateboards and crane over your shoulder to try and read Runaways too.

Let’s not forget the writing. Brian K Vaughan is one of the best comic writers working in the comics industry today. Neil Gaiman? Alan Moore? These names are rightly revered, but for the last five years, Brian K Vaughan has been one of the shining lights in comics, with his intelligent writing and consistently great and innovative ideas.

Originally, Runaways was cancelled after the 18 issues chronicled in this volume (Runaways Vol.1). However wild fan support, including massive public support from Joss Whedon (creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer) helped get the book revived, and Runaways is currently in its second season or story arc.

Even if you aren’t a comic book fan, you should definitely check out Runaways. And manga fans need not fear – one of the artists, japanese Takeshi Miyazawa – brings manga fusion to this edgy clean American style. There will be a few references you might not get involving characters within the Marvel universe but overall, it won’t hurt your understanding or enjoyment of the story.

Runaways. Cool. Gripping. Wonderful. Go read.