If you know a teenager, give them this book.
Joss Whedon is one of the most beloved comic book writers ever, in part because of his work on Buffy, his writing and directing on two Avengers movies, and his time writing at Marvel Comics. Many will remember Astonishing X-Men, but he also had a turn at the teen hero book Runaways. He’s infused a good amount of teen sensibility into this story that’ll please many.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Rebellious teens–Nico, Chase, Karolina, Molly, Victor, and Xavin–are all children of super-villains, and turned against their evil elders to become amateur superheroes, but when they are chased out of Los Angeles by the authorities, The Runaways form an uneasy alliance with East Coast crime boss Kingpin. Original.
Can I jump in easily?
Seeing as this is volume 8 it’s not the easiest trade to jump into, although it does open with a nice recap of each of the characters. The tricky part is understanding the dynamics of the characters and picking it up as you go along. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy, but you’re still playing catch up. As a whole, the story has a nice beginning, middle, and end as it sends the team to the past.
Reason 1: The characters talk like actual teens would.
A decent recap of the characters opens the book.
The characters are all over the place; as one talks another is off thinking or looking at something else. And with their observations come a teensy bit of slang (at least recognizable slang from 2008). The Molly Hayes character is possibly the funniest since she’s the youngest and way less self-aware. They also talk as you might expect teenagers to, at an age level where you can tell they’re trying things out but aren’t sure of themselves yet. It’s easy to relate to their ages in this book largely because the dialogue has so many good bits. Whedon is of course very good at dialogue and more than once he had me chuckle at a meta self-reflection or pop culture blip (like Mel Gibson’s arrest!).
Reason 2: The art captures the age and the clothing.
Artist Michael Ryan draws these characters at the right height and dimensions. That may sound like a given, but for kids, that can be tricky. When Punisher pops up in this volume (which may be the best scene of the book!) Ryan doesn’t disappoint. Another thing he’s great at is the clothing. These characters all have varying styles, from Super Skrull duds to a hoodie, and it all looks good. When the characters jump back to 1900 New York the period clothing is superb. Seriously, Ryan draws a mean Victorian-looking dress. The detail in the folds and flow are gorgeous.
Reason 3: The romance in this book is genuine.
Being in love as a teenager is a crazy thing. There are emotions you can’t understand and actions you can’t manage. This book gets that. There’s also the complicated nature of being gay which is tackled well here. This is by no means a romance comic, but it manages the relationships within it well.
Wait, are She-Hulk’s boobs fake?
Reasons to be wary?
This marks the end of the 2005 to 2008 run of Runaways which may have ended for a few reasons. One of which is the inability to have a strong voice in any one character. It’s a team book, so it must manage all the characters at once, but none of them come through clearly and instead there’s a watered down feel to the character work. They’re all sort of just there, which lessens your interest in their adventure.
Is there a rationale to the reasons?
I could easily see myself handing this off to a teenage cousin and know they’ll enjoy it. Even though it was written in 2008 the characters are relatable and read like very genuine teenagers. They talk like teenagers, have a spark like teenagers, and have to manage their ever changing world with their emotions like teenagers.