December 04, 2006

Action, Adventure…and Snappy Comebacks

Runaways Vol. 5 is a nominee for the 2006 Cybil Awards for Graphic Novels.

I never did read a huge amount of superhero comics when I was younger. Oh, there was the very occasional issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or X-Men, but essentially I went straight from Disney and Archie to Sandman, skipping several years in between. My education on the hierarchy of superheroes and mutants was mostly secondhand, via TV, movies, and geeky friends.

If I'd had something like Runaways to read, I'd probably have read more superhero comics. Similar to Marvel 1602, this Marvel series provides a new take on the same old superheroes, and brings in a few new ones to boot. It's got all the action, baddie-fighting, and superpowers you expect from the genre, along with pretty sharp dialogue that seems to laugh at its own cheesiness.

The Runaways are the children of a group of evil super-baddies called The Pride. The Pride are now gone, and their teenage children have vowed to never trust any other super-folks and fend for themselves fighting evil in Los Angeles. Along with the Pride's children, the group has accumulated a few new friends with various powers, including Karolina Dean, whose parents were evil aliens form a distant world.

Unfortunately, as we find out at the beginning of Volume 5: Escape to New York, Karolina's evil parents arranged her marriage to an alien called a Skrull as part of a nefarious plot to start a war between their two worlds. Now their planets have been engaged in a years-long battle. When the Skrull, named Xavin, shows up to claim his bride, she realizes that part of her resolution to fight evil means she needs to go back with him so they can try to undo the damage their parents did.

Meanwhile, there's hoodoo going on in old New York. Lady Dagger, half of the superhero team Cloak and Dagger, has been hospitalized after a beating—for which her partner Cloak was framed. The Avengers, including the familiar Captain America, Wolverine, and Spider-Girl—thinking Cloak was the culprit—are on the warpath. Cloak turns to the Runaways for help. They take an unexpected side trip to New York, where they help Cloak uncover the baddies who set him up.

This is a fast-paced, good-vs.-evil adventure, but it also deals with themes of friendship, family, loyalty, and responsibility. The characters are distinct and intriguing. And it's just plain rollicking good fun. The verdict: More than just your average superhero comic. If you're a newer convert to the genre, the writing, the comedy, and the adventure will keep you going; but fans of the old classics might also enjoy this new visit to the Marvel universe.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I SO love this series. I went into a comic shop a few weeks ago to purchase (actually purchase!) vol. 6 and they were sold out. Very sad.