Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Adrian Alphona
you never heard, Runaways was in big trouble for a
while. The story, about a group of kids who discover their
parents are supervillains who covertly rule the West Coast
(finally a satisfactory explanation as to why Marvel heroes
are STILL almost exclusively based in New York) put a great
twist on some old ideas and seemed off to a nice start, but
then it hit a snag: the second arc was strongly devoted to
the kids squabbling and stopped the main conflict (those damn
evil parents) dead in the water. Sales dropped, and there
was talk of the book getting canned.
a brand new book starts up, the writer always faces the problem
of knowing when to branch out the plot. Titles involving old
characters and setups don't usually run into this because
they've already got so much history and backstory established.
But, when you start with a brand new situation, you're under
pressure to hook the audience at the first issue and then
keep them there long enough to flesh out the story (which,
now that we've moved past the days of "postage stamp
plots," usually takes more than a few issues).
Runaways kind of jumped the gun, but it looks like
it may be back on track, and, with this new arc, those interesting
concepts that first attracted readers to the book are the
center of attention once more.
up from the last issue, the runaways are still huddled up
in their sunken mansion hidden in Bronson Canyon, having just
learned the origin of their parents' evil organization and
the greater purpose of The Pride: to eradicate humanity while
securing immortality in a garden of eden for their ungrateful
offspring. Our heroes were then ambushed by the LAPD officers
working for The Pride, who remarked that one of the runaways
was an informant (which we know to be true, but the kids don't
super-powered teenagers don't take kindly to being arrested,
much less having their telepathically-bonded dinosaurs shot,
so the team charges into action, fighting off the cops and,
unfortunately, destroying their own hideout in the process.
Mr. Wilder (unofficial head of The Pride) pours over old photos
of his son when Mr. Stein comes in and reminds him that their
major ceremony (the one that will lead to the end of humanity)
is about to get underway. Wilder says he doesn't care, since
the whole thing was done for the children, but Stein reminds
him that they didn't enter into their deal with the devil
for such a selfless cause. Originally, each couple wanted
the eternal prize for themselves. That said, he asks if Wilder
wouldn't rather take his son's place than continue the hunt
for their wayward children. Wilder proceeds to choke the life
out of Stein as he restates that everything he's done was
for his son, but Stein agrees and points out that he was just
testing Wilder, having grown suspicious that not every member
of The Pride is so magnanimous as they claim.
can say is thank god for origin stories. Vaughan and company
haven't told us much, but last issue's infusion of backstory
has put Runaways on firmer ground than ever before,
and things really look to be heating up.
of the informant within the group continues to drive readers
mad, but it seems that, too, may be coming to a head. Is it
Molly, the little girl who kept asking for her mommy and daddy?
Could it be Carolina, who wouldn't believe her parents were
villains even after seeing them kill an innocent girl? Maybe
Nico, who felt all her sins come back to haunt her when the
group was captured by Cloak and Dagger? What about Gert? Is
Alex playing both sides against the middle? What if Chase--
well, no it's probably not Chase (especially after what happened
to his little hideout this time around). But the clues have
been laid out in such a subtle and confusing pattern, just
about everyone's a suspect.
the giant Gibborim has also revitalized the book with a nice
dose of mythology that makes the story stand apart from the
other teenage-punk-hero books out there. The concept that
giants once ruled the earth has been the foundation of numerous
ancient myths all across the world and their presentation
in the last issue honored that universality very well. Yet,
at the same time, a whole new realm of possibilities has been
opened to the imagination: Where were the Gibborim all this
time? Why do they need humans to do their work for them? Can
you fight them? Can they even be killed? Will the runaways'
parents betray them for the love of their children?
Vaughan will put the blinders on and stay with this central
material for a while because "Runaways" is at it's
best when the conflict of The Pride and their children is
the focal point. Sure, the kids want to be superheroes, and
they deserved a chance to find out how what crappy heroes
they are, but the hook of this story has always been the villains.
If the creative team can just keep that in mind, they might
still have a winner on their hands.