Pride & Joy
time back, I remember making a post on Fanboy’s very
own forum about my dislike of the Tsunami line being launched
by Marvel. At the time, it seemed like a very lame attempt
by the demon that was Bill Jemas to tap into the booming
manga market that so many of America’s youth have
been causing, by crafting American comic books in emulation
of Japanese art and storytelling methods.
believe that was the intention, but as the line progressed,
it became clear that most of the books (Namor definitely
not being one) were actually well written comics and showing
the usual trappings of American comics (i.e.: attempts at
making a story logical, flowing, and a general good read,
unless you’re Chuck Austen). The Tsunami line has
garnered plenty of critical acclaim, and while some of the
books were aimed more directly at a younger audience (Sentinel),
the Tsunami line widened its age range with the more adult
oriented Mystique, as well as appealing to a wide
range of teens with titles like New Mutants and
The Human Torch.
like most comics that are well written, they face almost
constant threat of cancellation. The original trade paperback
collections of the Tsunami books were cancelled; some titles
have been scrapped or restructured, and the line itself
has pretty much been scrapped in favor of the new Marvel
Age imprint. So what happens when the line of comics gets
cancelled? That’s right, the trades finally get printed.
was the critical darling of Tsunami and has finally seen
collection under the Marvel Age heading, and with a creative
team featuring the likes of Brian K. (Y:
The Last Man) Vaughan writing and art by Adrian
Alphonia, it’s not hard to see why.
year Alex, Karolina, Gert, Chase, Molly and Nico are forced
to hang out while their parents divvy up money and cut checks
to various charities from the comfort of Alex’s Malibu
home. In lieu of spending yet another year playing board
games and babysitting eleven year old Molly, Alex, Gert,
Chase, and Nico decide to spy on their parents’ charity
work. When the four of them manage to sneak their way down
a secret passage to a view of the library, they see their
parents dressed up like it was the costume competition at
the Comic Con, discussing arms deals with extraterrestrial
clientele and 4th dimensional crime. Operating under the
brief illusion that their parents are superheroes, they
watch as their parents stab a young girl through the heart.
the kids have to make some decisions: namely, do they confront
their parents, call the police, run away, or all of the
above? It’s up to them to discover who and what their
parents are if they hope to avoid falling into their clutches
and try to steer clear of the dark legacy their forebears
have left them.
rare that Marvel does”by way of” superhero comics.
Powers (ironically moving to Marvel from Image)
is a superhero book by way of police drama. Stormwatch:
Team Achilles is a superhero comic by way of military
fiction. The closest Marvel has come is Brian Michael Bendis’s
run on Daredevil, making it more about the crime
noir elements than the spandex.
is writing a great superhero by way of coming-of-age story,
and it shows his deft skill with writing that the coming-of-age
element is the one emphasized. The kids are faced with some
tough questions when they realize their parents are super-villains,
and Vaughan never shies away from having the kids explore
them. Did their parents really kill someone? If they’re
super-villains, why haven’t they ever been on the
news? Are they really evil, or are their reasons for what
of the best scenes are when the kids stand around and argue
about what to do. They want to believe that their parents
are good people, but they can’t deny what they’ve
seen. This aspect of the plot parallels that time in our
teens when we began to realize that, while we may love our
parents, we may not like them. Alex, Nico, and the rest
are suffering from a shift in perception: they now have
to see their parents not as “Mom” and “Dad”
but as people. Very bad people who like shoving sharp implements
through torsos, but people nonetheless, and that’s
a huge shift for teenager.
characterization is godly. Each character has a personality
that shines through in both the dialogue and the actions
he or she performs, and never falters into the land of stereotyping.
Alex is a stalwart leader and logical in his dealings with
their situation, but never lacking in compassion. Nico is
nervous and yet, unarguably among the most mature of the
“Runaways,” who forms the hub of leadership
when paired with Alex. Chase and Gert are insecure about
a multitude of things, yet that insecurity is subtly placed
under layers of cocky jock-ness and cynical world-weariness,
respectively, while Karolina and Molly sit at the other
end of the spectrum. Molly is innocent enough to not fully
understand what’s happening, but clever enough to
realize something is wrong in her life, and Karolina masks
a lot of anger under her cheerful exterior.
best part is that none of this is obvious to the reader,
but finely woven into the plot threads and dialogue of the
book so that their individuality is expressed, without making
them wholly disparate characters. They are all kids and
they have all been lied to. These elements are apparent
in each character, which helps to form them into a unit,
bringing them closer to each other despite their differences.
It’s one of the most believable “team books”
I’ve ever read.
the kids are great, Vaughan also makes the parents interesting
in that he manages to keep them fairly ambiguous when it
comes to their “evil-ness.” They are unapologetic
about their various criminal activities, but they express
fear over their children’s welfare and regret that
they found out about their parents’ other lives. They
care about their kids, not as science projects or heirs
to an evil empire, but in that very simple parent-to-child
way. They seem to lean more toward the amoral side than
the immoral, which makes the scenes where the Runaways are
questioning themselves and the nature of their parents all
the more valid: we’re not sure if the parents are
all that bad. The reader is never given too much more information
about the parents than the kids might have, which forces
the reader to question the story the same way the kids are.
This keeps the book refreshing and unpredictable, making
room for Vaughan to explore a thousand plot directions.
artwork is great, but I’ve never heard of Adrian Alphona
before, and since Google has yielded no results, I assume
that he (or she, never know though I think the female spelling
would be “Adrienne”) is new to the comic world.
His style is unique and possessed of a domestic quality
that meshes with the familial themes of the book. There
is good facial expression, good movement, the panels flow
together well, and Alphona knows how to set the reader up
for a splash page of surprise, especially when “Old
Lace” is introduced, or when Karolina discovers the
interesting benefits of her heritage.
not innovative artwork nor as detailed as, say, J.H. Williams
III on Promethea, but Alphona seems able to find a balance
between minimalist and intricate artwork that gels well
with the fact that this is a story about teenagers and meant
to appear simple. The fine coloring of Brian Reber helps
the artwork and the tone of the book, as the colors do more
towards defining the pencils than the inking by David Newbold
and Craig Yeung.
is a great book and it deserves to be on your comic shelf,
which by now is probably a comic bookcase. (I myself subscribe
to the pile system of graphic novel storage.) Under the
Marvel Age printing, Runaways is digest sized, and only
costs you $7.99. That is cheaper than most manga, and rightly
so since the packaging and price, and the cover of the collection
drawn by Takeshi (Sidekicks) Miyazawa, are all
clever ploys to get American children to read American comics
once again. Hell, at $7.99, go buy multiple copies of the
thing and hand them out at the manga section to kids thumbing
their way through Kare Kano and Naruto.
If we can get them hooked young, then we have them for life.
That’s the American, and oddly enough, the Big Tobacco
& Joy (Runaways, Book 1)