Review: Runaways #1

The beloved Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona-created teen superhero team the Runaways are back with a new volume and an all-star creative team featuring writer Rainbow Rowell, artist Kris Anka, and Eisner winning colorist Matthew Wilson. Although it is a fantastic character study of Nico Minoru and her life post-Runaways and A-Force, Runaways #1 feels more like a zero issue than the first issue of a new series. It tries to tie up threads from previous stories like bringing Gert Yorke back from the dead via time travel so the team can have its “classic lineup”. The plot is Rowell refurbishing an old house, putting metaphorical bubble gum on leaky gutters instead of building a new one. However, with Gert back to her snarky old self and a mysterious final page, it looks like Runaways #2 and beyond will hopefully have more of Rowell and Anka’s vision for the team as a whole.

On a craft level, Runaways #1 is nearly flawless. Rainbow Rowell doesn’t fall into the prose writer-to-comics trap of over narration with her captions helping show Nico’s fear and anxieties about her magical abilities. She also writes plenty of snappy dialogue to counterbalance the angsty captions. They complement Kris Anka’s art work, who uses a lot of double page layouts for quick, readable storytelling because most of the issue is an emotions-running-high medical procedure gone wrong with Nico constantly trying to find the right spell to bring back Gert from near death. This allows for touches of comedy like her accidentally summoning a podiatrist instead of a surgeon as well as for Matthew Wilson to do all kinds of splashy, energy colors. Nico’s staff of one abilities could also be seen as a metaphor for the creative process and trying to balance originality and telling a story that still resonates. Brian K. Vaughan, Joss Whedon, and kind of, Noelle Stevenson had great Runaways runs, what new is there to add in 2017?

Hopefully, Kris Anka will be able to stay on Runaways for quite some time. He’s known as a great artist of attractive men and women and Nico, Chase, Gert, and unnamed podiatrist are all beautiful or stylish in their own way. (I loved the podiatrist’s cool googles and clear head in an insane situation and hope she returns even though Nico wiped her memory with a Wizard of Oz inspired spell.) However, Anka’s faces aren’t just aesthetically pleasing, but also great at telling a story. Nico’s range of expressiveness throughout the story is impressive as she goes from breaking down over the possibility of her friend Gert dying to confidently casting a healing spell with some pinks from Wilson and then looking concerned when Gert still is near death. Anka can show emotions via gesture too like Chase holding his hair in frustration or accidentally burning herself by making ramen, which Chase shows his concern for by grasping his hand. Without trotting out a whole lot of lore, Rowell and Anka use these touches, glances, and sometimes words to show a pre-baked relationship between Nico, Chase, and Gert, and I can’t wait to see what they do with the rest of the team, especially a much missed Molly Hayes.

Even if Runaways #1 has the slick dialogue and inking style of a modern comic, it reminded me a lot of what made Chris Claremont’s work on the X-titles so great. My favorite parts of those books weren’t the space battles, globe trotting, and supervillain fights, but seeing how these superhuman people reacted to human situations like heartbreak, leaving home (See early Kitty Pryde stories.), or the inability to connect with another person intimately. (Rogue’s entire arc.) Rowell, Anka, and Wilson mine a similar vein by starting the comic with a slow-paced look at Nico’s post-superhero career existential crisis featuring a dumpy apartment and issues with her magic before unleashing a double page splash of Chase carrying Gert Supergirl in Crisis on Infinite Earths way.

In Runaways #1, Rainbow Rowell and Kris Anka tell a story about guilt, fractured friendship, and trying to create your own identity in your early twenties that happens to feature magical surgery, time travel, a dinosaur, and a smorgasbord of gorgeous colors by Matthew Wilson.

Story: Rainbow Rowell Art: Kris Anka Colors: Matthew Wilson
Story: 7.0 Art: 9 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review