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Double-Shot: Runaways and Wildcats 3.0

I believe that some time ago, back when I was trying to hash out my feelings over buying Crossgen trades, I decided that even if a series was cancelled, that didn’t necessarily mean that the trades wouldn’t be worth the glossy paper they were printed on. Good stories can be told, even without the closure one gets from a completed run on any one comic. This is a good thing because more and more “good” comics are being cancelled as we speak, and some without a chance of continuation. There are a few titles that get lucky or that are brought back through fan demand (Sleeper: Season Two and Spider-Girl respectively), but if a book isn’t selling, a company lets it go. And sometimes that’s okay.

But honestly, I still want a series I’m reading to continue, or at least reach a point in the narrative that I feel has shown the characters to have grown, changed, or somehow been affected by the events of the story in a lasting way. So I’m happy to bring you two trades, recently (and by recently, I mean within the last year or so) cancelled series the both of them, that have actually managed a second volume: Runaways: Teenage Wasteland and Wildcats Version 3.0: Full Disclosure .


When last we left these disaffected youths of supervillains, Alex, Karolina, Gert, Chase, Molly and Nico were on the lam from their Pride-ful parents, hiding in an abandoned hotel and giving themselves codenames, vowing to bring down their evil parental units.

Apparently, this vow included a caveat that allowed the kids plenty of time to hang around and be snarky teenagers, while running low on food money. It must be noted again that Vaughan handles writing teenagers expertly well. Gert or “Arsenic” as she likes now (the line where she refers to “Gert” as her “slave name” was damn funny), is as perfect a paragon of “disaffected youth” as a character can be, without sounding pastiche and two-dimensional. Yes, she’s cynical in a Janeane Garofalo way, but she’s realistic in the way she deals with the kids’ situation. Four days of wondering about your parents being murderers is bound to make anyone cranky. Molly, the youngest at 11, is still in a state of naiveté that only someone her age could occupy about the state of things, and her random moments of realization, where she misses her mom but remembers what her mom is, are touching and well used to highlight Molly’s unique perspective on the Runaways' problems.

And let it not go unsaid that Vaughn understands how idiotic teenagers can be. The “cat-fight” between Karolina (Lucy in the Sky) and Nico (Sister Grim) and the reasons behind it only make sense in the way every fight you had in high school over a significant other made sense (re: it seemed like a good idea at the time). I’m reminded constantly when reading this series of the petty and stupid things I did when I was 16, and Vaughn’s ability to invoke these memories in the reader show’s how well he writes.

The art continues to be good, and while I still enjoy Adrian Alphona’s realistic line work, I’m quite happy to finally be getting to the issues drawn by Takeshi Miyazawa. I’ve enjoyed his manga-ized style since Oni Press’s Sidekicks came out (and quickly ended) and was damn glad to see it again. His design for the kids don’t differ much from Alphona, other than adding his stylistic touches, but I enjoyed his designs for B-List Marvel heroes Cloak & Dagger, making Cloak look a bit more ominous and Dagger more sleek and less like a hooker, which is the impression I got when I last saw her in Marvel Knights. Miyazawa also handles the Pride parents better than Alphona, making them look far more sinister and far less everyday than they’d previously looked.

Luckily for all involved, I’ve heard rumors that Marvel will be re-launching Runaways in a “season two” fashion in the coming months, and with only $7.99 as a price tag for this and the first trade, catching up won’t be overly expensive.

Wildcats 3.0

The fact that this series continues (or rather doesn’t) to be so very good is a damn crying shame considering, unlike Runaways, there is little chance we’ll see more of Joe Casey’s sideways glance at superheroics and the big business world.

The way Casey makes the business aspect as compelling as the action is still amazing to me. Jack Marlowe’s consistent cool demeanor is always full of threatening undertones shifting beneath every surface word, and even an interview with an inquisitive reporter feels important to the story, as if every time we hear the former Spartan speak he’s foreshadowing the actual revelation about his global agenda he keeps close-to-vest.

But notable also is the action quotient. In this volume, there is less action sequences, toning down the book in favor of more quiet and disturbing scenes involving many of the core cast members. Mister Wax’s sudden and understandable shift in personality from the benign character he was is smooth. The man goes from cautious observer to utter bastard participant, and he’s much more likable (or like-to-hate-able) in this incarnation, sort of a John Constantine for the Wildstorm Universe, but with fewer morals.

What action there is comes from surprise bad ass Edwin Dolby, who spent most of his time in the last volume being the Halo Corporation’s ledger-wielding super-accountant. The discovery of some unseen talents in Mr. Dolby leads Grifter to begin testing and training the man to his limits, and we see again that a character in this series is changing. It all feels like Casey is setting up for a nice third act, one where more light might be shed on the Halo Corporation and what it means for them to be operating in the world, especially when an unforeseen side effect of their latest product creates a golden and possibly destructive opportunity for Jack Marlowe.

The art by Nguyen and Friend continues to be some of the best I’ve seen in comics lately and I’ll go to my grave considering Nguyen underrated for his clean line work, tight sense of movement, pacing, and character design. I even thoroughly enjoyed his work on Batman recently, though I thought the storyline was pretty lackluster (sorry Judd Winick, but even you have bad days). Nguyen and Friend also continue to use space and silent panels to give some inexorably creepiness to many scenes. They’re damn good. I hope that they continue to find high profile work because they only add to the books they’re on.

At $14.95 for six issues worth of comic, a cover gallery, and a well written prologue that explains the goings on of the previous volume, it’s a good deal for a good read. And considering both of the works described above put together will only cost you $22.94 (plus tax, void in Michigan, Avalon, and other mythical places), it’s well worth a trip to your local comic provider, because sometimes, even cancelled comics get shelf space.


Robert Sparling

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