"When did you get so stingy with spells?" "Since I started running out."
Not enough people liked Runaways. A comic published in 2003 by Brian K Vaughan and Adrian Alphona as part of Marvel publisher Bill Jemas's doomed "Tsunami" initiative, it was pretty much shunned by most Marvel readers and, with corporate support, limped along to issue 18, despite rapturous reviews, awards, cosplay, and people devoting their hearts to it. It was the Kieron Gillen/Jamie McKelvie Young Avengers of its day, but sold even fewer copies.
This comic about teenagers in the Marvel universe who discover their parents are super villains that no one has heard of — and they'd like to keep it that way — had elements that would be seen in Brian's later hit, Saga, the combination of people of science and people of magic, working, living, loving, side by side. The expectations and failures of parenting. And the likelihood of people to do the wring thing at the right time. No wonder the people who liked it loved it.
And then something strange happened. The trade paperback collections started to sell. And not just the Jemas-mandated digest-sized versions, but the later full-size versions as Marvel realised that, actually, there was a market for Runaways — just not where they had been looking. And it was enough for them to bring Runaways back to comics, in dribs and drabs, even with folk like Joss Whedon writing, with other creators on subsequent issues included Terry Moore, Humberto Ramos, Kathryn Immonen and Sarah Pichelli.
Marvel published a 30 issue series to follow, then relaunched another 14. There was even a Secret Wars mini-series. But it's fair to say that they never quite caught the critical fire that the Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona series did, which remains a true Marvel Comics classic.
An old friend of mine, Drew Pearce, wrote a film treatment after working on Iron Man 3 — he also wrote and created superhero sitcom No Heroics which is really overdue a critical reappraisal. As with many movie projects, it went away.
This meant Marvel TV were allowed to have a go. And a new TV series based on the original series will be dropping on Hulu on N0vember 21st, my birthday. We ran a few snippets here until people started making legal threats…
And, with a new TV series on the go, Marvel Comics has decided to have a new Runaways comic, as well. It looks like a six-issue limited series, but Marvel isn't confirming that, as they are allergic to those words. But it's from YA author Rainbow Rowell with artist Kris Anka and colourist Matthew Wilson. Here's the solicit, ahead of next week's release.
(W) Rainbow Rowell (A/CA) Kris Anka
GET READY TO RUN!
The "IT" book of the early 2000s with the original cast is back – Nico! Karolina! Molly! Chase! Old Lace! And, could it be? GERT?! The heart of the Runaways died years ago, but you won't believe how she returns! Superstar author Rainbow Rowell (Eleanor & Park, Carry On) makes her Marvel debut with fan-favorite artist Kris Anka (ALL-NEW X-MEN, CAPTAIN MARVEL) in the series that will shock you and break your heart!
Rated T+In Shops: Sep 13, 2017
Break my heart? I'll take that challenge. Bleeding Cool has seen an advance copy of the comic. There will probably be small spoilers here, but major twists not stated in the solicit or previews won't be stated.
The comic focuses on Nico, the magician who can use any spell (but only once), and who has bunt though all she can think of, having difficulty lighting matches for the stove. The mighty brought low. She could use many a spell to sort out her situation, but who knows when she'd need it later?
It's the combination of absolute power and inability to use it, for fear of needing to use it later, that goes to the heart of the character. She knows she cannot have her cake and eat it, and that fills this first issue. It's this incapability that has caused Nico to run away from being a Runaway. The "with great power must come great responsibility" line is far more suited to Nico, and this comic is all about that responsibility — both to use her powers and not use them.
I'm not sure about breaking my heart, but it certainly stressed me to all hell.
A fellow Runaway has suffered a terrible blow. And Nico must save Gert somehow — every one of her previous healing spells now seems a waste. Some of this is said, some is left in between the panels, unsaid but acknowledged.
Yes, Gert died. But things can be fixed if you don't cheat. OK, OK, don't cheat a lot. But Runaways has always been about whatever you can get away with. And Chase does have a time machine, after all.
"You have a time machine… and you got there too late?"
So this becomes a superhero magical procedural, the details are delicious and thought through, the ingenuity of solution, with any possibilities not taken excused by the stress of the situation.
Taking this comic apart, it is impressive to see this build, to watch the flow of audience expectation pieced together and ramped up panel by panel. It's a comic about emotion, but as much that unexpressed as expressed. So, yes, Kris Anka, is perfect for this, clean lines, inter personal stress and conflict, in the moment agony, then able to conjure the fantastic but make it sit happily alongside the mundane, without contradiction, both his strengths but also keeping it in tone with previous Runaways.
It may be the biggest insult or the greatest compliment that I could have totally seen this as Runaways #19. Or whatever it would have been. It's a shame that, as part of Marvel Legacy, it couldn't have been Runaways #67. Because that's how it feels. There is a mention of moments in between, but it's telling how soon it feels like the regular Runaways again.
It's also as funny. There is a killer gag, delivered after the main trauma has ended that totally lightens the mood, does something only comics can do and even reflects the newspaper gag strip just a little thanks to Anka's deft pen lines.
So no, no heartbreak. But stress, smiles, and a longing for more. What the hell else do you want, blood? Because, okay, there's plenty of that too.
Some will dismiss this as fanfic. A way to get away from what a writer originally wrote, with the audience given what they want rather than what they need. I don't know. I think these days giving the audience a bit of what they want, as long as it comes with a price, is no bad thing.
Oh yes, and no dinosaur yet. Though on the cover — and the TV show — so, just wait…
Runaways #1 is published on September 13th by Marvel Comics.