The new Runaways #1 came out June 17, but it wasn’t on my radar until two weeks ago. That’s when I read Lumberjanes Vol. 1 and started seeking out all the other things Noelle Stevenson has written. Many years ago, I ate up the original Runaways series run started by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona and continued for the stint by Joss Whedon. I lost track of it after that, but I continue to have a great fondness for it, so when I heard Stevenson was picking it up, I thought I’d check it out, ever hopeful.
Boy-howdy was I disappointed. I already knew that the Secret Wars Battleworld version of Runaways was vastly different than the original set-up. In fact, I knew that only one character overlapped–Molly, a pint-sized 12 year old with a super-strength mutation. But before we really get into it, here’s Marvel’s marketing description:
The best and brightest teens from all corners of Battleworld are chosen to attend a prestigious school on the planet’s capital! • But what does the new class do when they discover the school’s beloved headmaster is actually a diabolical super villain? RUN AWAY! • A SECRET WARS story like none other from the remarkable minds of Noelle Stevenson (LUMBERJANES) and Sanford Greene (UNCANNY AVENGERS)!
So, really, the whole set-up and character set is changed. I didn’t find it for the better. Though this is only issue #1, I found the characters’ introductions to be lackluster. The conceit of how they all come together is akin to The Breakfast Club–a bunch of students who otherwise don’t get along get in trouble with the school authorities and put in detention. Meanwhile, they’re all concerned about a skills test that will decide whether they can stay in the school or will be expelled.
The characters lacked any pizazz, depth, or uniqueness. Sure, they were delineated into different cliques by their clothes and interactions with each other, either positive or negative, but they largely all talked the same. I had been looking for the kind of quick-handed characterization of Lumberjanes with a touch of that wackiness. Perhaps that’s too much to expect from issue #1, but the characters left me so bleh I won’t be buying issue #2.
Furthermore, Sanford Greene’s art was fine but difficult to love. Close-ups had excessive etching, medium shots looked like Archie-style, and long shots looked like classic Annie.
However, there were glimpses of something better to come. I enjoyed the re-imagining of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters as Victor Von Doom’s Institute for Gifted Youths. With it came a frame composition that easily called to mind posters for Hitler Youth. And here’s where the playfulness can be seen. The Hitler Youth here become Doom Youth, which becomes doomed youth.
I also enjoyed seeing the larger picture of Battleworld through the description boxes for each character. Since I’m only reading A-Force and Captain Marvel and the Carol Corps, I don’t have a full sense of the different regions of Battleworld, but this gave me a taste. Initially I was thrown off by the voice in those info boxes. It was distinctively young sounding with a touch of snark. Of course, the final reveal of the book gives a name and face to these student notes.
Also laudable was depiction of non-cisgendered characters. Sanna is extremely masculine, so much so that I originally took her for a him. Pixie and Jubilee previously dated but are now just friends.
But it doesn’t add up to a story I’m interested in seeing the development of. If you’re reading the series and want to convince me of its merits in the coming issues, I’d be glad to be proven wrong on this title.