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September 08 2009

Marvel's Runaways: A Great Beginning that Needs a Great Ending. Reviewer does not favor Whedon's run on the title. Spoilers for those who haven't read Runaways.

[ edited by scarecroe on 2009-09-08 23:09 ]

Actually, I didn't care for Joss' time on Runaways either. I didn't think he did a bad job, but the storyline just wasn't to my taste.
I think the delays killed off most of the interest in the story. I haven't read the story since I bought the issues but I'm tempted to go back and read it from the start.
I did a re-read of Vaughan's issues before Joss started on the book and it was epic. Only solidifies your love for the characters, doesn't make you re-think your enthusiasm for the book like re-reads sometimes do.

While liking certain parts of Whedon's 6-issue run on the series back when it was first coming out (late--I think it took a year and maybe slightly more to get those 6 issues out), especially what he got to do with Chase and Nico (and I think he made a great contribution to the series in Klara--another "type" in the Marvel Universe, a time-displaced person), overall I was disappointed by it and found myself bored with the title and ready to give it a break. I was a little bummed when Brian K. Vaughan left the book and stated his wish that the characters and series would last as long as any other longrunning (read: seemingly neverending) superhero book. I recently bought all the stuff after Joss' run after finding renewed interest in the title (and one of the books it frequently crosses over with, Young Avengers) and have found that Terry Moore (and artist Humberto Ramos, who I often like but who isn't a suitable fit for this material) was really the only writer who let the series down any. I re-read Joss' arc before getting into Runaways' third run and it's a lot better than I remembered, it sets up a few things that later writers thankfully took into account and played with.

Some disagreements with the review (plus some story fact corrections), although yes, I'm keeping in mind that the reviewer's daughter may be quite young.

"A climax was building when Vaughan left"
I'd say there was a mini-climax every arc and a major one for every volume of Runaways, but I felt Vaughan left things open more than abandoned the book before resolving anything specific he had set up. He left the dangling carrot of an epilogue with Alex Wilder still existing somehow in some white-washed limbo along with the apparently recently-deceased Gibborim, the giant-god-things that were the major villains in the first volume of the book, that's the last image Vaughan and original artist Adrian Alphona gave us--it hasn't been followed up on in 2.5 years since, but that may just be because none of the new writers have been interested in tackling it yet or perhaps Vaughan asked that it be left for him in case he decides to return to the book for a bit.

"werewolves were creeping in from the edges, and Los Angeles...was clearly becoming overrun by shadowy evildoers. The townspeople were clearing out."

The only werewolves in the book were some jokey (and really comical/pathetic-looking) American Western-dressed werewolves at the beginning of an issue to give the team something to fight, but the reviewer's daughter makes it sound like they were a plot point worth talking about or that would develop further, not the case. Los Angeles' citizens weren't clearing out (maybe she has Runaways confused with the end of Buffy Season 7 in this case?). If they were, I think many other characters in the Marvel U would've noticed and gotten involved.

"Unfortunately, the next writer ignored these undercurrents and recycled an old plot point that was effectively closed...Chase stops trying to bring back Gert, though he'd already more-or-less agreed to quit it earlier."

He saw an opportunity in the past (or rather, he happened upon one, since I'm not sure if he knew what he was operating when he pulled the lever on the past-Yorkes'/Gert's parents' time machine) and understandably took it. Would you stop trying to bring your dead girlfriend back if you saw a good chance ? He still cares about her, I bet he'll still make attempts, he just maybe won't be as suicidal and risking of the team when he goes about it.

They couldn't contact Spider-Man during the post-Civil War, Spider-Man was part of Registration (at least during that period, no?). They wouldn't stay in LA, they needed to get far away and seek sanctuary in New York to hide from Iron Man. Dunno why they did't contact earlier allies Cloak & Dagger, can't remember if that was explained or if they simply don't have their cell numbers. Maybe they didn't have confidence that C&D would be able to protect them from Registration, while the Kingpin with his vast resources, would.

"The Runaways were changing and growing, until Mr. Whedon sent them back on a pointless journey to 1912."

1907. I know the time travel may've seemed like a pointless diversion, but they continued to change and grow even in Whedon's arc (although more than anything, I think Joss arc accomplished more the task of giving later writers more toys to play with). He got to write some more about some of the parents (I'd still like to see more of The Pride, even if only in flashback, if they did all die in the undersea chamber back during Volume 1), he gave Nico an upgrade (not to mention letting her inflict some awesomely horrible punishment on the Yorkes), gave Chase a poignant scene at the end there, gave Victor a love-and-loss, gave Karolina some enjoyment and allowed her to save Klara (who is amusing in her surprise/disgust of year 2000+ conventions), and gave Molly a friend.

Also, Lilly wasn't a Mary Sue. The reviewer needs to look up the meaning of that term, it gets thrown around pretty carelessly by critics. Nico/Victor were always seeming pretty much in-the-developing stages and maybe/maybe not anyway, so it's no surprise that it didn't take much to draw his attention elsewhere.

Klara wasn't an attempt to replace Gert, nor did she feel like one--completely different kind of character.

Disagree that Joss' arc = character digression.

Was just about to read the most recent issues (#11-13), more comments about Terry Moore's arc/Volume 3 later (I really liked one of the stories in #10, about Molly--with Wolverine/The X-Men--which surprisingly dealt with her parents).

[ edited by Kris on 2009-09-08 18:33 ]
This is what you posted on that website as well.

(Spoilers ahead) This comic desperately needs one person working on it and sticking it with it. When Vaughan left, Joss changed the direction and not in a way that really worked for me; the entire time travel routine has been done to death, and here I agree with the author- a perspicacious little one, if ever there was one- that this really led only to the three things she notes. But I don't think Joss ruined the comic; I think that is happening now, with a (spoiler, do not read ahead) major loss in the comic that as yet has no real pay off and needs it, a loss of focus on who these kids are, and I don't know if anyone really understands what a treasure they have in Molly, easily one of the great Marvel characters. It's a wonder Joss did not try to kill her off, like (another spoiler!!)maybekittypride. The new manga style art, combined with the story has lessened my interest in a comic I really did like. And in truth, I am usually no fan of Marvel.
Well I can't disagree with the reviewer, Joss' take was disappointing, and unfortunately Terry Moore's was even more disappointing. I wish Vaughan would return and give then (and us) some closure.
I agree. Bring back Vaughan!

Speaking of, is it worth reading Pride of Baghdad and Ex Machina? I loved Runaways and Y: the Last Man (enough to buy the original comics, trade paperbacks and absolute editions - stupid me) but for some reason never picked up the other two.
Pride of Baghdad is absolutely worth reading. One of the best books I read in a while. Ex Machina is also very good and is currently being released in nice oversized hardcover collections.

Vaughan was definitely the best Runaways writer. I still liked Joss' short run and the current story is pretty good too. The Moore issues were unfortunately extremely disappointing.
Tony Moore is the one with the shitty arc. His "Dead Wrong" arc was so hard to get through, and I'm really not looking forward to "Rock Zombies." I heard the lady that takes over after him is amazing, though, so that's a light at the end of the tunnel.
Actually his name is Terry Moore. (Who I really like when he is writing his creator owned books Strangers in Paradise and Echo.)

Rock Zombies is at least as bad as Dead Wrong.
Just wanted to second the Pride of Baghdad love. I read it recently, and it's excellent--easily as good as Y (though obviously very different).
I completely lost interest when Vaughan left. To me, that's like Joss leaving any of his shows to someone random. When Joss's run first started, Vaughan was on his run on Buffy, and I thought it was just a fun little switcheroo thing they were doing. I know the time travel aspect stems from Joss's not wanting to wade through Civil War story arcs and just deal with the characters in their own story. Either way, when Vaughan didn't return, there's really no point to me. None of that is cannon as far as I'm concerned. Runaways isn't X-men, it's not Spider-man. The Runaways story felt like a Whedon show, ironically enough, and as such felt like no matter how long it runs it is heading toward something.

The other thing about the series is that the team has never been permanent. Only two characters remain from the original grouping; almost every arc under Vaughan, one of the team dies and gets replaced. It keeps the team fresh and makes it so that the book stays different from those other long-running titles but means the team isn't this immortal, unaging force. The team will always be teenagers, but its members won't. Abandoning that is tantamount to abandoning the entire premise.
I thought Joss' arc was okay. It was a disappointment, but it doesn't deserve all the hate it gets. It gets so much hate because relatively it's a very bad Runaways arc. And that's the whole problem with Runaways. It's almost impossible to replace BKV, because he has just got such a great handle on his characters. (Plus he's a genius). The second reason it gets so much hate is, because it doesn't live up to Joss' previous comic book work.
Terry Moore's arc was just bad.
Incidentally only BKV can write Victor.
I thought Joss' run was passable but not brilliant though I may be looking on it more favourably because I had a touch of prescience (or maybe 'postscience' is closer, after AXM ;), suspected they'd be delayed and so waited until I had the entire arc (in singles) and then read it all the way through.

Stopped reading after that though - 'Runaways', though good, has always been my least favourite BKV comic and not a must-have when written by someone else. If i'd heard good things i'd have dropped in for the occasional trade, as it is i'm as happy not to bother.

('Pride of Baghdad' is beautifully drawn and well enough written - though I thought it was a bit "on the nose" in places and not, for me, in the same league as 'Y: The Last Man', hell, it ain't even the same sport ;) - but 'Ex Machina' is excellent IMO, well worth a look)
Just for the record, I wasn't hating, just not loving, Joss' Runaways arc. And I'd really like to add my voice to the loving of BKV's Pride of Baghdad and Terry Moore's Echo.
Pride of Baghdad and Ex Machina are both worth reading.

I didn't think Joss's arc was terrible, but it was very muddled. I liked it, but it certainly didn't match BKV's work. Terry Moore and Humberto Ramos almost made me give up the damn title. Kathryn Immonen is doing something, and I'm not sure what. I'm waiting to see what the conclusion to this story is.
Is this series really canceled yet? I wasn't able to make it to a store for a pretty long time so I've only read one or two of the Immonen issues and sort of liked it but I would like to see this series last. The lack of solicits apparently doesn't bode well though.

While the whole time-travel thing seemed like a pretty random digression and some of the characters' voices seemed a bit Buffy-esque I sort of imagine that if Whedon did more than one arc then it'd seem like less of a weird little digression. That said, it'd have been even more delayed I imagine. (Plus I'm inclined to suspect that they renumbered after his run as an effort to rebrand and relaunch the series but that wasn't really my cuppa.)
The cover of Runaways #14, the next issue looks interesting.

I really enjoyed Joss' Runaways arc, especially Molly, who could forget (among many other joys) Molly's "Why aren't you awesomed by me?"
Unfortunately, although I was a big fan of Runaways (it's one of only a handful comics/graphic novels I've read), I didn't like Joss' run either. I just couldn't understand what was going on, it was all over the place and some of the characters just didn't seem like themselves. I liked elements but there was so much going on that so few of those elements were developed. Also due to the artwork I couldn't distinguish between some of the characters, so I got really confused. And confused that I didn't like something Joss wrote. That threw me.

It's weird because if you'd just given me the issues before that, I would have sworn that it was his work!
I liked Joss's arc quite a lot. I thought there were far too many new characters in it and that that killed the momentum but I thought it was a well-told story and very funny in parts. I didn't like it as much as Vaughan's issues but that's not surprising since it was his story.
Dana said:
"This is what you posted on that website as well."

Yeah, a while after posting it here, I put a slightly altered/edited version of the post here over there as well. See what kind of response I get.

PuppetDoug said:
"The other thing about the series is that the team has never been permanent. Only two characters remain from the original grouping."

Well, there are four actually (look away for spoilers those who haven't read the arcs after Joss' !). Nico, Karolina, Chase, and Molly (and Alex is presumably lurking in the background somewhere as a villain). Which is roughly equivalent to having Buffy, Xander, Willow, and Giles left as the original four of the cast, without Cordelia and Angel, for Buffy Seasons 4 through 7. But that's still more than half of the original Runaways left on the current make-up of the team. And Victor was introduced early in the second volume, so in my mind he's become as much a core part of the team as any of 'em.

"The team will always be teenagers, but its members won't. Abandoning that is tantamount to abandoning the entire premise."

I don't know how time passage is working in the book and the rest of the Marvel Universe these last few years, but it seems by now that everyone except Molly and Klara in the team has hit 18, or at least are close to it. Chase has been an adult since some time in BKV's run, and I believe Nico & Karolina were only a year behind him in age at the beginning of the series (Gert was the youngest teen at 15). I forget how old Molly was and I can't figure out how old she's currently supposed to be, but I think BKV started her off at 10 maybe ? I think the book can continue with no problems with the gang as young adults. The title doesn't have to only apply to minors on the run from the law/enforced guardianship, it can refer to how they're fugitives from their pasts/upbringing or whatever. Who knows, maybe they'll have the whole team break a bunch of laws soon to keep them running. Buffy the series outlived highschool, Runaways can presumably outlive highschool-age (although if Molly never dies and maybe Klara neither, there will always be at least one or two teens or pre-teens in the book). It's not a series I want to see continued for too many more years, it'd be great if BKV came back to tie things up (although I won't hold my breath 'cause that wasn't his intention with the title), but I'll keep reading for a bit longer at least. Kathryn Immonen is showing a lot of promise as the fourth writer on the book (the fourth Runaways writer only if you don't count the crossover writers--BTW, I finally got around to the Civil War and Secret Invasion Runaways/Young Avengers titles and they weren't half bad. At the very least, they were opportunities to give Xavin and other less exposed characters more to do/to emote over).

patxshand said:
"I heard the lady that takes over after him is amazing, though, so that's a light at the end of the tunnel."

followed by Polter-Cow:
"Kathryn Immonen is doing something, and I'm not sure what. I'm waiting to see what the conclusion to this story is."

I've no previous experience with any of Immonen's writing so I had no expectations, but I'm pretty impressed with her handle on the characters so far. Her first two issues (#11 and 12) were a promising return to form, though #13 hinges on whether #14 pays off well (I thought parts of #13 were a little confusing, but it may have been more a fault of the art--which I'm digging, at least how Sara Pichelli draws the characters--the action scenes were a little muddled).

The book sells really well in digest and trade paperback form (probably the hardcovers too, since they keep putting 'em out), though it is one of Marvel's lowest sellers in monthly issue/floppy form. Not being in the solicitations these past couple months may mean Volume 3 #14 is the last, but I wouldn't be surprised to see once-or-twice-a-year graphic novels in the future and maybe the book would be better off that way, with fans getting a big shot of the material all in one dose.

I'd like to see Chris Yost get another shot at writing the book down the road. He had the voices of the characters down perfectly in the 3-issue Secret Invasion storyline (the Young Avengers' too) and I thought his part of issue #10 was perfect. Funny, continuity-respecting, and poignant (and Molly's not normally one of my favorite characters, I can count on one hand the number of times I've found her endearing over the years, but Yost wrung some quality sympathy and worthwhileness out of her character. I understand that there are a serious lack of well-written pre-teen girl characters in comics, but sometimes I've just found her grating. I'm glad they gave her a friend in Klara).
Many good points, Kris, but I think Molly is a treasure. Problem is, they have yet to really give her a role beyond comic relief, even though she is really the strongest member of the group. I have to say, though, that I don't like the artwork now; I liked it better when it was drawn more realistically. I suspect that the comic is coming to its end run.
Molly is scary. That scene with her and Geoffrey from the past where they talk about Alex's death is very chilling indeed.

Say one thing for Joss' run, he did come up with my favourite Molly line "Why aren't you awesomed by me!".
The one where he tells her to drop the Rudy Huxtable routine? Yeah, it's moments like that I associate with Brian K. Vaughan. I thought Joss's run was decent, but those are clearly Vaughan's kids.
Yes that's the one. It was a complete "what just happened" moment. I would loved to have seen that side of Molly's personality explored.
I was disappointed she was all Rudy in Joss's run. A great Rudy, but just that.
A bit off topic but I would enjoy seeing Joss take on a Young Avengers series. Mind you a lot of projects I often muse what it would be like to have Joss at the helm.
Heh, aside from "Why aren't you awesomed by me!", my favorite Molly line in Joss' run is in #27, their first issue in 1907, when they've been given a room to stay in by the Street Arabs and she's all, "This is the girls' side! No boys allowed on this side of the room for smooching or any other gross stuff that I can usually hear even when we're not in the same room." The art made it work too, like how Karolina and Xavin are ignoring her. It's just Molly being a little, boys-have-cooties-thinking girl, but I found it funny and exactly something she would say.

I'd forgotten about younger Geoffrey Wilder calling Molly out in the BKV issue just before the big death. Yeah, that's even bigger than no one picking up the Alex thread, every writer since Vaughan seems to have ignored Molly-as-more-than-she-lets-on. She seems to repress a lot too (ie, any time Klara brings up that she's actually a lot more adult [than she wanted to be] when she brings up her having a husband in the past, or dealing with thoughts about the parents she knew vs. what the gang told her they had witnessed in issue #1 and then seeing what they were doing in the Gibborim's underwater shrine).

I gotta say the most recent death in the book was a kick in the teeth. I loved . And what it did to .

BTW, this isn't a spoiler for anything upcoming, but having just re-read parts of the one where , BKV wrote in two major trap doors that could lead to justifiable resurrection and I only noticed one of them just now, although he also wrote the line, "The future's a threat, not a promise" to justify not ever resurrecting.

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