Have you ever thought that your parents might be members of a secret villainous organization set on destroying the world? Thankfully, they’re probably not. But what if they were?! Runaways, released in 2003 by Marvel’s manga-oriented imprint Tsunami, explores that scenario. Created by Brian K. Vaughan, the superstar comic writer known and loved by (almost) all for his work on Saga, and Adrian Alphona, who went on to co-create the character of Kamala Khan, Runaways ran for for 18 issues before being cancelled a year after its launch. Runaways has since been revived on multiple occasions, with the latest creative team consisting of Noelle Stevenson, of Nimona and Lumberjanes fame, and Sanford Greene. However, I have only read the original Vaughan & Alphona run, so my judgements will be based solely on it.
I absolutely adore kid/young adult team up stories. For some reason, I couldn’t care less about adult team ups, despite the sheer amount of hot abs featured in The Avengers movies. But things like Stand By Me, Lumberjanes, Runaways make me feel things even Chris Evans’s abs can’t. I’m sorry, Chris Evans. Runaways includes a diverse cast of characters, among whom are a dark wizard, a solar-powered alien and a telepathic mutant, who are initially brought together only by the horribleness of their parents. But as the comic progresses, the kids of the comic, the youngest of whom is only 11, learn to not only live with each other but also live without their parents and try to adapt their rather forced early adulthood. Maybe the story seems so poignant to me because of my immigrant experience, wherein I “ran away” from everyone I knew to the other side of the globe once I turned 18, I can’t say with complete certainty. I decided to write about Runaways partly because I’m interested to see whether it holds up to the ones of us who are not as nomadic.
Even if the theme of forced early adulthood is not the biggest selling point for you, the series also features Brian K Vaughan’s typical fun and snappy dialogue as well as story twists and turns that sometimes make you wonder why you decided to read this comic in the first place. Everyone is so great but then horrible things start happening! But it’s still worth it, I assure you.
As much as I love the story of this comic, I’ll be quick to admit that I’m not the biggest fan of the art in Vaughan and Alphona’s run. That might have something to do with the fact that I’m not a manga reader and have only seen a couple of feature-length animes, but I don’t want to simply pin everything on the fact that the artwork is influenced by manga. The look of Runaways just often feels stiff, blocky and lacking in detail. To be honest, I was stunned when I looked up other works by Adrian Alphona and found out that he co-created the most recent Ms. Marvel, because that comic looks absolutely wonderful.
Runaways is not perfect, but I feel like its merits heavily outweigh its flaws. The comic is also worth picking up if you want to look at the earlier work of a couple of comic professionals who went on to bigger and greater things. I get that Runaways might be difficult to get into because of the sheer size of the run, Vaughan and Alphona’s story takes up a total of 7 paperbacks. However, I’d say that I’m advocating that you read Runaways in general and not necessarily its original run.
Give it a try. These kids make a pretty good team.