The Runaways are having a bit of a moment. The current run of the comic book series is written by superstar author Rainbow Rowell, and the characters have been adapted for television as Marvel’s Runaways. The show, currently in its first season on Hulu, is set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe continuity and was recently greenlit for a second season.
Not sure who the Runaways are? Created in 2003 by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona, the original run of Runaways was a breath of fresh air in a medium that doesn’t see compelling new superheroes—or superhero teams—all that often.
In a nutshell, the Runaways are a group of kids whose parents were all villains known as the Pride. Once they discovered their parents were evil aliens, time travelers, magicians, and mutants, the kids turned on them and joined forces to defeat their parents and, ultimately, atone for their sins.
No, the Runaways weren’t Super Heroes any more than their parents had been Super Villains. They had responsibilities, things they believed in, a reason for helping people, especially kids like themselves, street punks who’d gotten in over their heads or who had parents doing them wrong. They weren’t just fighting crime to fight crime, they were trying to survive, and maybe make up for some of the horrors their parents had been responsible for. To them, that was enough.
Christopher Golden’s new novel is a fun take on the characters and is refreshing in that it’s a great “jumping on” point for new fans without rehashing an origin story. Whether you’re a fan of the original comics, the current run, or the Hulu show—or if you’re not familiar with the characters at all—the book is exactly your speed.
There are no prerequisites to understanding or knowing what the heck is going on.
Thankfully, this is not an origin story. The story doesn’t spin wheels explaining how the kids meet and join together. It doesn’t waste time showing us how the characters learn to adapt to the new normal or work together. That can be a compelling story, sure, but it’s been told multiple times in the comics (and on the show). There’s no need to retread the same ground yet again in a novel.
Instead, the book begins a few years after the team came together, and Golden provides all you need to know about their parents, the Pride, and their individual backstories as the story develops. It’d be all too easy to dole out this information in a Wikipedia-style narrative flood, but Golden manages to write each character (and his or her thoughts) in a way that both distills them down to their essentials and presents a fully rounded character.
It’s a little astonishing, really.
By alternately focusing on and telling the story from each of their unique perspectives, the reader quickly connects with Nico, Gert, Chase, Karolina, Molly, and Old Lace. Being privy to their thoughts, memories, and interactions with other characters only deepens that connection.
The guards were both backing away as Molly raced silently toward them. They looked confused by the sight of this little girl. At the last moment they realized they ought to defend themselves despite her size, and then they were on the floor with broken bones and probably concussions.
Plotwise, the Runaways stumble on another group of ne’er-do-wells that has eerie similarities to the Pride, right down to the powers and dysfunctional parent-kid dynamics. In the process of taking them down, they take on a few new “runaways” and begin to heal old and new wounds alike.
One of the unexpected pleasures of the book is that Golden litters the story with a veritable goldmine of C-list Marvel cameos. The Crimson Cowl, Sunstroke, Whirlwind, Blue Steel, Detroit Steel, Rocket Racer. There’s just a boatload of characters you’ve probably never heard of. And that’s half the fun.
Along the way, the Runaways find a new secret base, have some epic superhero battles, save Los Angeles, make omelets, and fall in love.
Obviously, this is a book about teenagers. And teenagers have hormones. These particular teenagers are of the superheroic type, which means their hormones are also a bit more… super. And that teenage passion is fully on display between Gert and Chase and between Karolina and Allis (one of the new characters). Just a friendly FYI for parents of younger readers—you may want to give this one a quick readthrough to see if it’s appropriate for your household.
Runaways is a quick, fun read, and I recommend it highly for fans of Marvel (and the growing cinematic universe) in general and these characters in particular.
They were the Runaways, after all. Even when it seemed like they had it all under control, things had a habit of going horribly, horribly wrong.
(Disclosure: Marvel Press provided a review copy of this book. All opinions remain my own.)