Writer – Rainbow Rowell: Penciler – Kris Anka; Inkers – Kris Anka, Walden Wong; Color Artists – Dee Cunniffe, Jim Campbell; Letterer – VC’s Joe Caramagna; Graphic Designer – Carlos Lao; Assistant Editor – Kathleen Wisneski; Editor – Nick Lowe
The Runaways have had to leave their home and crash with Los Angeles’s hero Doc Justice, and they couldn’t be doing better! Rainbow Rowell is now on a remarkable 27 issue run with no low notes. This month, the young heroes are going out on their first mission under the leadership of Doc Justice and, trying not to spoil anything, it goes very well. As one would imagine, the action exists, but it isn’t the main draw of this issue or even this series. This issue’s biggest strength, as well as this entire franchise’s biggest strength, always has been and remains the characters. This issue has some great comedy scenes that really bring those characters to the forefront. For instance, at the beginning of this book there is a great montage as the heroes try to decide on what costumes to wear for their maiden mission as the “J-Team”. The way that each character reacts to Nico’s first costume, a revealing outfit that follows video game armor logic, is great insight into each character’s mindset at the time. Chase shows flirtatious interest, Carolina (her girlfriend) is extremely excited, Victor’s embarrassed, Molly is sickened and angry, and Gert’s disgusted and snarky. There is a similar scene next with Molly’s gear as well that one should see unspoiled. Further on characterization, even the small characters have personality; the interactions between the cat, Old Lace, and Gib (last of the Gibborim) are consistently pleasant and heartwarming. Finally, while not at all funny, we get to see a deeper side of Gert. This month the reader sees her feeling like an outsider among the runaways, a condition certainly exacerbated by the fact that she was dead until recently, because she is the only member without combat experience and therefore has to ‘sit on the bench’ during the mission. As a reader, one would be wise to be skeptical of Doc Justice, either his intentions or his lifespan, but his leadership, resources, and stability seem to be good for the team. Let’s see where the rest of this arc takes him.
There is very interesting lettering in first panel, though, in the context, that may be more the penciler’s work. Whoever is responsible, the letters are nice and slick in non-dialogue bubbles. There’s a very California, superheroic feel to it in a few panels that works well, so respect to Caramagna and possibly Anka for that.
To further praise Anka as well as Wong, the first panel of Chase in an action hero pose, stylized and dramatic, is a great technique to convey the story of this issue. The runaways are joining a real superhero team, but they are still their goofy selves. This starts us off on a subtle comedy beat and a light note that helps set the tone well. The costume design is really what stands out from Anka’s art in this issue. All of the costumes are apropos to each character’s personality and powers, even harkening back to their origins a little. Nico has a cloak that looks dark and magical, not unlike her parents’ costumes. Carolina is like an Angel, a comparison always inspired by her power set and personality. Molly looks like a normal person in a simple costume, always more Molly’s speed, the kid playing superhero that actually has powers. Chase has his gear and Victor, the most excited and devoted to Doc, dresses like a mini version of him.
For colors, Cunniffe and Campbell’s use of a pastel continues to impress, truly creating a new standard for this series as well as the whole franchise. There’s also a great panel that, after an awkward situation, the background drops out and leaves the characters emoting on a black background, really helping the reader feel the weight of the scene that could have easily been missed or sped over otherwise.
Runaways continues to be one of the best books on the shelves. If you’re not reading it, do yourself a favor and give it a shot!