Sunday, October 18, 2009
Runaways: or Why I Still Love Comic Books
In the beginning was Krypton, and that perfect, pedestrian Man in Blue becomes very boring, very quickly. The Dark Knight comes along on day two, but doesn't become truly heroic until the gritty realism of Frank Miller and later on the insane treating of Mr. Nolan, who annihilated the left over crust of camp from the sixties. Friday rolls around and The Watchmen changes everything. The comic book takes on global annihilation, super heroes that aren't so super, and a god-like hero that hides on Mars. Amazing!
Enter the Runaways. I have read the first year of the book (issues 1-12) and have so far been thoroughly impressed. Runaways is so cool because it has taken all of the traditional aspects of comics and thrown them on their ear. Why hasn't any one asked what happens to the kids of those super hero or villain groups? Runaways takes the logical conclusion that people (even in comics) have normal relationships and from those relationships, kids are born. If I was a super villain and I had a teenager, I certainly wouldn't want them to find out that I am part of crooked outfit that wants to dominate the world.
The Pride, this group of super villains, do have children. Once every year these uber-baddies get together to talk about their future plans. They lock themselves in a room, thinking that their children will behave, but teenagers are teenagers. They find a secret tunnel and end up witnessing a brutal murder of a young girl their own age. How would you react knowing that your parents, sacrificed someone to increase their personal power. The kids decide that they need to take off.
Thus forms the Runaways. The book formulaicly sets up finding out the powers of each of the young super heroes. Some of the powers are pretty cool, for example being able to mentally control a velociraptor. Others are a little bit more generic, super strength. But even when the power is generic it's owner isn't; twelve year old Molly Hayes needs a nap after each super exertion.
Runaways is cool because it knows that it is cool. The writer, Brian K. Vaughn, knows that when he brings in two "middle-grade super heroes from New York" he can make fun of all the comic book titles that have taken these type of heroes so seriously. Vaughn laughs at these heroes, tongue-in-cheek. He also dumps in great cultural references that my generation knows and loves. Runaways is hip and also very deep. Runaways is a Marvel book and often references all that has come before. During a struggle, one of the characters suggest that they call the Avenger's Crime Hotline. Chase replies that he has already called several times, but they will only respond to a nuclear crisis. I love it.
Runaways is also unique in the fact that it does away with many of the regular super hero trappings: costumes, secret code names, and tired cliches of having the super group fight a new super villain every episode. It is a breath of fresh air. All too often I have read books that just seem to throw in enough plot to keep that issue selling. Runaways sticks to the arch, and only has a few occasions where the story is not directed toward progressing the great story telling and incredible writing.
So far, I have to say I am loving the book, and look forward to catching up to the current issue. As far as I can see, the book has been published for at least five years. For those of you who enjoy a good comic book, Runaways should be the one you pick up.
5 out of 5