By Rainbow Rowell, Kris Anka, and Matthew Wilson
The time of the Runaways is now. After a long absence from comic book shelves, they are back in a new, exciting way just ahead of their upcoming series that will air on the streaming service Hulu. Like with every Marvel-branded superhero television show, the company uses this as an opportunity to start a new series in the hopes of bringing in new readers. However, this isn’t a complete and total reboot. Instead, it feels more like a continuation that returning fans will love, as it keeps the tone, look, and feel of the original series. Now, this comes at a price, and as a result, this isn’t the most newcomer-friendly debut, even if it doesn’t completely isolate new readers.
Young adult author Rainbow Rowell (Landline & Fangirl) seems like the perfect fit to lead an ongoing Runaways comic. Here she introduces us to one of the more popular Runaways cast members, Nico Minoru, who became a Runaway and then ran away from them. She’s got nowhere left to go; a magician and an outcast from outcasts. The growth of her character has been fantastic to watch over the previous volumes and it’s great to see Rowell put her front and center here, with some fantastic monologues that really show the writer gets the character. Chase Stein is also brought into the picture in this issue, and the focus on these two characters rather than catching us up on what everyone else was up to really helped to prevent the book from feeling like a standard first issue. Already the dynamic between Chase and Nico feels natural, never forced, and everything feels stronger because of this.
The artwork from Kris Anka on pencils and Matthew Wilson on colors (whose work on The Wicked + Divine makes him a must read) is fantastic. The clear sense of style that Anka brings to the table really works in updating the Runaways for a modern era, bringing across a fresh, exciting and sleek look that feels grounded in comparison with the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The emotions that play through Nico’s face over the course of this issue are brilliant, with Wilson’s colors adding a unique, vibrant energy to the book. One of the main draws here is the stellar collaboration of the creative team, as everything flows together very well, avoiding many of the formulaic tropes that come with the first issue of a team book.
The emotionally-driven feel of Runaways #1 sets the tone for a deceptively affective series. It will no doubt continue to break readers’ hearts as it progresses, putting emphasis on character development over plot. While your favourite cast members may not be immediately present, given how long fans of waited for them to be reunited again they can afford to wait a little longer still. The creative team is in top form, suggesting that Runaways could well be Marvel’s next big thing.