Turn Back the Pages is a biweekly feature where I spotlight a comic that is not fresh and new. It may have come out a few months ago or even a few years ago. Maybe it was hyped and popular, or maybe it was an underappreciated gem. Whatever the case, it’ll be a great comic that’s well worth a read.
With a TV series in the works and Marvel relaunching a new monthly comic written by Rainbow Rowell, now seems like a good time to talk about Runaways.
The comic’s premise is simple and fantastic: six kids learn their parents are in a supervillain cabal after spying them murder a girl in an occult sacrifice. The kids then make the very reasonable decision to run away from home.
It’s definitely a high-concept premise, but what made the series so great was it’s relatable, complex characters. The six original Runaways are:
- Alex Wilder: geeky gamer and teen genius, he’s the leader of the Runaways and the son of two mafia bosses.
- Nico Minoru: goth girl and the daughter of two evil sorcerers. She comes to wield a magic staff that allows her to cast any spell, but only once.
- Gertrude Yorkes: sarcastic, cynical daughter of sinister time travelers. Rocks purple hair and gets a pet raptor.
- Karolina Dean: free-spirited vegetarian and lesbian who learns she’s an alien composed of rainbow light. Daughter of two other rainbow light aliens who are evil invaders.
- Chase Stein: rule-breaking jock whose bad grades disappoint his mad scientist parents. Steals the Fistigons, a high-tech gauntlet, from his dad.
- Molly Hayes: adorable preteen with super-strength and invulnerability, daughter of evil mutants. She wears cute hats and totally punched Wolverine through a wall once.
You’ll note there are more ladies than dudes on the team, which is an awesome change of pace, and while the group picked out superhero codenames early on, they stopped using them just as fast. None of them bother with costumes except for Molly, who makes hers out of bedsheets and calls herself “Princess Powerful.”
The Runaways start out simply trying to avoid their parents and get help. The fact that no adult superhero ever manages to help them leaves the group disdainful of adults and authority in general. There’s a part where they run into the heroes Cloak and Dagger, who at the end of the issue are just about to return to New York and call in some reinforcements for the poor kids…
Then the villains wipe the pair’s memories of the whole event. The Runaways have no idea, leaving them waiting for help that will never come.
By the end of the first story arc, the Runaways go from running to actively trying to thwart their parents’ evil plan… except for an unknown traitor on the team who leaves their parents a note claiming to be loyal to them.
The comic’s main strength is its characters. The kids bicker and make dumb decisions sometimes, but they’re funny and likeable and a group of underdogs you want to root for. The series kicks a lot of old superhero tropes to the curb, and the team’s goal often isn’t crime-fighting so much as looking out for each other and staying alive. Nico even jokes once that the team’s motto is “Try not to die,” which is a far cry from “Avengers Assemble!”
The team later gets new members, including Xavin, Karolina’s shape-shifting and gender-changing fiancé, and Victor Mancha, Ultron’s cyborg son. Eventually, the comic was canceled, but the first issue of the relaunch seems to be getting decent reviews, and I’m hopeful for the rest of the series.
If you want to read the comic before the TV show comes out (and I suggest you do), you can grab the first collected volume here. The show doesn’t premiere until November, and here’s hoping it does the Runaways justice.
Thoughts about the Runaways comic or TV series? Let me know in the comments!