Sunday, July 22, 2018

Teenage wasteland

Still the best superhero comic on the shelves at the moment, Runaways is now up to #11 of the latest series, and (impressively, considering how Marvel comics do things these days), will be continuing past #12, although the sales figures aren't spectacular. Which they should be; it's really that good. It is selling better than my other favourite comics, Squirrel Girl and Astro City, but they're more kind of niche things, while Runaways is something that really should be read by everyone. In fact, I order you all to go and read it. I do realise that American comics nowadays are so expensive that only the four richest kings of Europe can afford them, but they do come in very slightly cheaper compiled paperback editions, and there are some really cool oversized volumes of the early Runaways stories, 18 issues to a book, that I'd recommend checking out!

Someone on the internet has kindly summarised all the Runaways' appearances here, if you want to know exactly what I'm ordering you to read, but the only bits that I would call essential reading are the 42 issues of the original series written by Brian K Vaughan, and now this new series by Rainbow Rowell. I mean, there are other good things on that list too - Avengers Undercover really should be on everyone's must-read list, it's brilliant, but from the perspective of Runaways readers it's as well to skip the characters' appearances in that period; they're all mentioned when necessary in the new series, and smoothed over as much as possible where people are acting wildly out of character.

It's a problem with lesser-known superhero characters when their comic gets cancelled and they start showing up occasionally in other people's comics. Anything that happens to them is inevitably going to be reversed when next someone wants to write them, and everything they do inevitably doesn't feel right when it's not written by their original writer. That's why this new series is so fantastic on many levels - not only does it perfectly feel like the Vaughan-era originals, grown a couple of years older, it acknowledges and treats as important everything that happened to them in other comics, even when busily reversing them.

Besides, it contributes nicely to the general theme of the comic - teenagers who've gone through traumatic experiences and bonded. It all started when they discovered their parents were secretly super-villains, and escalated through a series of adventures on the run until the gang had the added burden of (indirectly) killing the parents and many another crisis to try to come to terms with. This issue, #11, is a 'downtime' kind of story where they all just hang around and talk through things. Which is a bit unusual for an eleventh issue (comics tend to come in six-issue storylines), but then Runaways has never really been about heroes fighting bad guys - in the previous ten issues, the worst enemy they've faced has been Molly's mad scientist grandmother. It's a great place to join in and get to know the characters; otherwise, please go out and buy the collection of the first six issues, and then add the upcoming paperback of 7-12 to your shopping list too. You won't regret it!