I like to encourage my kids to read comics but can’t always get them to read the stuff I like. (Annoying when they have minds of their own.)
However, the eldest daughter found exactly what she was looking for in Marvel’s Runaways series.
That is might soon become a major motion picture thrills her to no end. Except she’s worried that it might be based on the inferior later issues and not the earlier issues written by series creator Brian K. Vaughan.
Because when Vaughan left the book at the end of the seventh digest collection, another creator took over and, as she put it, the Runaways became the Dead-End Kids.
She learned what many of us comic readers learned long ago: beware the change in creative teams on our favorite series. Even if the new writer’s name is Joss Whedon.
Her review is below. Be warned: SERIOUS SPOILERS BELOW.
The basis for Runaways was enough to catch my eye. Ordinary kids discover their parents are super-villains and run away from home is an idea cool enough to make me wish I’d thought of it. The tagline for the series is, in fact, even catchier- “At some point in our teenage years we all thought our parents were the most evil people alive. But what if they really were?”
The characters were even better.
But my initial love for the series has waned and at the hands of one of my favorite creators.
As a teenage feminist, and a lover of good comic books, it’s difficult to find one that portrays teenage girls in a realistic light. Brian K. Vaughan’s Runaways did it.
From a plump, snarky and delightful purple-haired dinosaur-owner named Gertrude Yorkes, to friendly Goth chick and hedgewitch Nico Minoru, and blonde, blue-eyed girl next door lesbian alien Karolina Dean, teenagers were no longer portrayed as excuses for angst or cheap humor. They were just people on a journey. Characters with a goal.
Frequently, comic book characters in long-running series do not have a goal that rings true. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But the Runaways were working towards an end. A climax was building when Vaughan left. Tensions in the group were running high, werewolves were creeping in from the edges, and Los Angeles, despite the Runaways’ best efforts, was clearly becoming overrun by shady evildoers. The townspeople were clearing out.
I hoped the next writer coming for this series would keep that fact that Runaways is different in mind, that it features realistically portrayed teenagers with a journey that has an end that needs to be told. I hoped the next writer would respect all the maturing these characters went through.
Unfortunately, the next writer ignored these undercurrents and instead recycled an old plot that was effectively closed.
That the next writer was also Joss Whedon was doubly disappointing.
I am easily the biggest Buffy fan in my house, and considering what a geek my mother is, that’s saying something. But no one, not even William the Bloody’s creator, should turn the Runaways into Kingpin’s cohorts, ignore plot points from earlier in the books, and revisit elements that had already been closed.
The cliff-hanger from the last book had Iron Man chasing after them. I began getting worried when Whedon’s first issue had the Runaways decide to flee to New York City, a place they’d only visited, instead of staying on their own turf in Los Angeles, a city they knew like the back of their hand. Even worse, the story completely ignored the legitimate contacts the cast had made on their earlier visit the City, such as good friends Cloak and Dagger and Spider-Man, and instead had them shack up with the Kingpin.
Because because street-wise, capable crime-fighters whose non-mourned parents are super-villains always accept dinner invites with New York’s resident ‘Blob of Crime.’
The story deteriorated further with mis-characterization. The group had been moving towards working together as a team rather than disorganized individuals. Whedon ignored them and brought them back to Square One, and thus completely destroyed all the hard work the team had done in the original run.
The Runaways were changing and growing, until Mr. Whedon sent them back on a pointless journey to 1912.
An arc that large should change something. There were only three discernible changes with this arc and they weren’t that big.
Chase stops trying to bring back Gert, though he’d already more-or-less agreed to quit it earlier. Victor and Nico break up because of some random Mary Sue. But Nico wasn’t that committed to the relationship anyway, so the angst felt forced. Plus, Victor’s loyal, so why would he all of a sudden take off with random people.
And there was also a random flower girl in what felt like an attempt to replace Gert, even though that level of snarky joy is impossible to replicate.
In conclusion, Joss Whedon brought the Runaways back to Square One with his run on the book, and I don’t think I’ll ever trust him with such characters again. He turned the group back into something they’d left behind many issues ago, and that character digression is bad, bad writing. Worse, he set up for the next writers to continue exactly where he had been.
It’s turned me off from the entire series, at least for a while.
And don’t get me started on the Buffy Season Eight comic series.