Sunday, June 13, 2010

Review - Runaways

Written by Brian K. Vaughan; Art by Adrian Alphona and Takeshi Miyazawa
2005 Eisner Winner for Best Writer

When the time comes in the not too distant future when American superhero comics die and the postmortem is performed there will be a lot of pointing fingers at who or what killed it. Along with the cultural shifts there will be names mentioned; people who will be blamed for not choosing the correct course of action or who initiated a shift in the medium that was poisonous to it in the end. When that day comes that Marvel and DC comics close up shop and are reduced to just warehouses for intellectual property there is one person who will not be blamed because in the waning days of superhero comics he took the chances and he reached out to a new audience. Brian K. Vaughan recent efforts with superhero comics have been ingenious in breaking new ground and in breaking the genre mold.

Runaways has a simple premise: six teens who are the children of supervillains run away from their parents and look for a way to stop their plans. They each have their own inheritance from their parents which they hope to turn against them. What makes this story work is that Vaughan writes them as teens. They have the same plan of all teenagers in rebelling against their parents but they're lost on how to do this. So they've just run away from home and hide out together trying to figure out what to do. And one of the group is still loyal to their parents.

The strongest aspect of Runaways has to be the characters. Vaughan created a cast of believable teenagers who are in turn scared, angry, rebellious, immature, and argumentative. They spend a lot more time fighting each other than their parents. The group feels like teens on the run who like the idea of being runaways but have no idea actually how to do any of it. That gives the group an interesting dynamic.

Ostensibly this is a book about superheroes but you'll be hard pressed to actually find any. They don't wear the costumes or really fight many villains other than their parents. In a way very similar to his Ex Machina Vaughan uses the structure and concepts of superheroes to tell a very different story. This one is naturally all about teen rebellion, family ties, and establishing a life. It just happens to have a girl who can life a bus over her head in it.

The first eighteen issues of Runaways is one complete story and Vaughan won his Eisner for the period when that story was concluding. Most of the artwork for those issues were done by Adrian Alphona with a little bit from Takeshi Miyazawa. I liked Alphona's art quite a bit as it had a slick, dynamic style. With Miyazawa on the other hand I did not like how he drew the character's faces; his manga style lacked a lot of definition and made things look flat.

I have the impression Runaways is intended for a younger audience and I suspect that they'd like it a lot. The tone and style is something that I think someone the same age as the characters would appreciate. As someone whose teen years are far behind them I still loved it. Runaways transcends its genre roots and is worth checking out.