As a longtime and devoted reader, I’ve come to expect that a filmed version of a printed work is never going to be the same. And that’s okay, as long as it has the feel of the original and does it justice. So when I watched the first three episodes of Hulu’s take on Marvel’s Runaways, I wasn’t expecting a shot-for-shot version of the much-beloved comic, but I was looking for a certain tone and take. Sadly, for me, not only did the show not feel like the comic, it veered more towards the CW teen dramas than superhero stories.
In the comics, the five high schoolers and 11 year old Molly are forced to hang out together once a year while their parents are supposedly planning a fundraiser. Deciding to spy on their parents when they get bored, the teens discover that their parents supervillain leaders of a group called The Pride, and they are forced to flee — hence, The Runaways are born.
The show makes some major changes right from the start. Alex (Rhenzy Feliz), Karolina (Virginia Gardner), Chase (Gregg Sulkin), Gertrude (Ariela Barer), and Nico (Lyrica Okano) are pitch perfect for their comic counterparts — check out the cover of the first trade that the show is definitely homaging:
However, 11 year old Molly in the comics is aged up to 14 for the show, with Allegra Acosta bringing more diversity to the cast, but losing the effect of having a kid sister type on the team. Molly’s innocence is a source of a lot of comedic moments in the comics, and since the show is following her same transformation storyline, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense why she’s older.
The other big cast changes are the addition of a deceased older sister for Nico, who was never in the comics, and Molly’s parents having been killed in a mysterious fire that other members of The Pride may or may not have been involved with. These changes seem to fit into a much expanded story from the comics; instead of immediately running away after witnessing their parents kill a girl, the kids stick around and investigate from the inside.
And here’s where the show’s deviations start to change the feel of the comic. By adding in a more complex backstory, they’ve also upped the drama factor. Much of the first episode is devoted to showing how much the characters were effected by the death of Nico’s sister, who never existed in the comics. Instead of having an existing rapport and a kind of family dynamic, they bicker and argue following their stereotypical roles: the jock, the goth, the nerd, the good religious girl. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the show feels much more like a CW drama than a fun superhero show — the show creators and writers Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage also created and wrote Gossip Girl. I wish that they had modeled the show on its fellow West Coastal The O.C., which had a great mix of humor and drama.
The other place the show fell down is focusing way too much on the parents. The entire second episode is almost completely told from the parents’ points of view, and through this and third episode, each couple’s relationship is delved and not one is without problems, both stemming from The Pride’s actions and typical couple issues. In a show that is supposed to be about a group of teens, spending the entirety of the second episode barely touching on them felt very odd.
And that leads in to a greater issue of tone. It seems like this show isn’t sure what audience to appeal to: the teens that should be the center of the story, or adults. This comes across in some really odd choices, like random shots of various women in their underwear (the only dude who gets naked is a virtual shot where we don’t actually see anything), two separate parental sex scenes, and a really upsetting almost-rape of Karolina at a party. That and a complete lack of any moments of humor make the show not much fun to watch.
At the end of the day, Runaways is a superhero comic, and choosing to lean more into those elements rather than almost exclusively on the relationships could have helped bring a lighter tone to the show. There is a dinosaur from the future for Pete’s sake! Though there are tons of visual nods to the comic and the broad strokes are there, this show is a bland copy of what Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona created.