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Review: Runaways #4

In Runaways #4, Nico, Chase, Gert, and the head of Victor Mancha reunite with the final member of the original Runaways team, Princess Powerful herself, Molly Hayes. Writer Rainbow Rowell, artist Kris Anka, and colorist Matthew Wilson craft an emotion filled issue that is limited to the confides of the incredibly adorable homestead of Molly’s grandma, Dr. Hayes. The plot continues to be slow and character driven, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing as Rowell digs deep into how Gert feels about still being a teenager compared to the adult Nico and Chase because she was ripped out of time in Runaways #1.

Anka’s use of grids and Rowell’s philosophical, “what does it mean to be human” narration from Victor throughout the comic makes parts of Runaways #4 feel like Tom King and Gabriel Walta’s modern classic, Vision where the body-less son of Ultron made his last appearance. It’s a steady formalism that contrasts with the pure spunk and feeling when Molly reunites with the Runaways as Molly is the only one who he reveals that he is still alive to. Anka spends a whole double page spread on the reunion with plenty of hugs and smiles and cat shaped grilled cheese from her grandmother, who doubles as a biologist and the perfect grandma. Rowell and Anka do a good job making Dr. Hayes a mix of a welcoming and suspicious as she gives Gert some nice pep talks and talks science with Chase, but it seems like she has some kind of a secret agenda. Some of the clues are the colors that Matthew Wilson use for some of her cats’ eyes aren’t particularly friendly, and that the cat Band-Aid that she gives Molly after a “routine blood transfusion” seems like she’s trying a little too hard .

Rainbow Rowell’s writing for Gert is sharp and sarcastic as well as incredibly gloomy in Runaways #4 and is ably matched by Kris Anka’s body language for her.  Gert is a Runaway because that’s all she’s got in her life. Nico and Chase brought her back from the dead, and she’s basically stuck with them. This is why she is so gung-ho on Karolina and Molly rejoining the team even though they are so happy living relatively normal lives in college. Even though it’s couched in the language of science fiction and superhero comics with all kinds of gadgets, artificial intelligence, and time travel popping up, Rowell hones in on that real, awkward feeling of trying to reunite a group of friends when multiple members are kind of over the friendship.

Thankfully, Molly doesn’t want Chase, Gert, and Nico to go away forever and even has a trundle bed for sleepovers, but she’s super content to sleep in a warm house, play the Ducktales theme instead of running for her life. Anka and Wilson use laid back compositions and warm colors to show the Runaways settling down at the Hayes residence with board games, popcorn, and cat food for Old Lace, but Gert is always slightly out of frame with her arms crossed. She’s not buying this good life until she has a heart to heart with Dr. Hayes. Rowell writes the older character having insight about who Gert is as a person and her special bond with Molly (The hug in their reunion tells the whole story), but basic thriller/superhero and hell even fairy tale tropes code Dr. Hayes as not a great person and her advice as false comfort.

In Runaways #4, Rainbow Rowell, Kris Anka, and Matthew Wilson resist the temptation to get the band back together and have them hitting the road and avoiding evil adult types. That story was told back in 2003 by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona and in 2017 on Hulu. Instead they explore the messiness of picking up relationships after a long gap in communication. But with more robot boys and a dinosaur that is more cat that pre-evolved bird.

Story: Rainbow Rowell Art: Kris Anka Colors: Matthew Wilson
Story: 7.8 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.4 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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