Have you ever wondered why with all the superheroes located on the East Coast, there aren’t a million super-villain teams just rippin; California to shreds?  You’re not the only one.

(For my part, I just wondered why we spent so much time with the awful parents in their TV show.)  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Runaways #1 awaits!

RUNAWAYS #1

Writer: Bryan K. Vaughan
Penciler: Adrian Alphona
Inker: David Newbold
Colorist: Brian Reber
Letterer: Paul Tutrone
Editor: C.B. Cebulski
Publisher: Tsunami/Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $2.50
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $70.00

Previously in Runaways: The dawn of the 21st Century was a tough time at Marvel Comics.  Speculator interest in new comics had faded and the owners had used Marvel’s stock to leverage the purchase of millions of dollars in other capital, leaving the company in literal ‘junk bond’ status.  After Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Marvel began to rebuild and diversify their comic output, creating new publishing lines such as the adult oriented Marvel MAX and Tsunami, designed to appeal to fans of manga and anime.  Tsunami titles included a solo book for X-villain ‘Mystique’, a revamped ‘New Mutants’ and a solo series for the Human Torch, creating a line that was broad and varied, but whose longest-lasting effect came with this very issue.  Our story opens with computerized versions of Marvel’s greatest heroes interacting…  somewhat straaaangely?  The Invisible Woman tries to seduce the Hulk into calming his rampage, while Captain America uses the ‘R’ word.  Turns out, it’s all a simulation on a MMORPG, with Cap being run by a young man named Alex Wilder…

We quickly discover that all is not beer and Skittles in the Wilder household, as Alex’s mother worries that he’s watching pornography, while his father immediately questions who is paying for the subscription to such a frivolous service.  While young Master Wilder tries to make the case that the game was a gift from his parents, as well as the only way he gets to interact with his friends, he is quickly shut down…

Man, they really nailed the casting on Alex’s dad, didn’t they?  Daddy Wilder’s nerves are nothing new, as we quickly discover, since he has reacted this way every year, as far back as Alex can remember, when he, his wife and five other couples have their annual charity get-together.  His mother reminds Alex of their credo that ‘Good deeds must be done in secret’ (a super-creepy adage given the context of the rest of the issue), and insists that Alex prepare for the arrival of their friends, as well as those friends’ children, whom she suggests should be his actual friends.

Cue Gertrude Yorkes, screaming “I don’t wanna go!”

All true fans of ‘Runaways’ know that Gert is the best character, by the way, and her effortless take down of her parents attempts to out-reason her are the proof of that.  Of course, there are a lot of characters upon which one might hang one’s “Favorite Character” hat, as we see when we meet sweet, outgoing Carolina Dean, whose parents are among the toast of Hollywood…

Laughing about their success and idyllic lifestyle, the Deans wonder if they’re the only happy couple in Hollywood, leading Carolina to opine that they’re the only happily married couple in the entire state.  Our next family tableau seems to prove her right, as Chase Stein and his father have a spirited discussion about his grades…

Even with the troubling subject matter of child abuse, I love Adrian Alphona’s art in this issue  His later work is amazing but it’s wonderful to see the building blocks of that work in play with a young creator here.  This version of Chase being the dull-witted jock stereotype that his TV self works to hard to avoid gives Mr. Stein’s rage some interesting dimensions, but thankfully, not all our ‘rents are abusive jerks.  Some are just kind of awkward about the whole “parenting” process…

Molly Hayes’ worries about the “gross stuff” happening to her aren’t just about the usual puberty issues, either.  As any Marvel reader can tell you, most mutants gain their superhuman abilities at or around the same time that they begin maturing, a fact which only serves as a spoiler if you’ve been living in a hole since about 1975.  As a parent of a tween child m’self, I can tell you, these conversations would be even more awkward if your daughter was lifting HumVees, though.  As for the final member of our cast of teenage soon-to-be-heroes, we find her locked in her room, obsessing over her missing favorite nail polish…

Once our cast is assembled, Vaughan’s writing and ear for dialogue takes center stage, with moments both subtle (Alex’s quiet disdain for dumb jock Chase) and not-so-subtle (his sudden realization that Nico Minoru isn’t just a weird kid he has to hang out with, but a lovely young woman, leaving his hormonal surge visible from space), as well as some painfully awkward silences.  After an hour or so of nothing to say, Alex suddenly has an idea that might entertain his new pals…

With his knowledge of secret passageways in the Wilder manse, Alex leads his sorta-friends down to see their parents’ annual meeting…

It is nothing like they (or, indeed, any sane person) might have imagined.

Seeing their mothers and fathers in costumes, hiding in secret chambers, Alex comes to the conclusion that the six of them are the children of superheroes, a notion which impresses some of their number.  But when his father brings out a young woman who may or may not be a prostitute, Carolina quickly sneaks eleven-year-old Molly away, while the remaining Runaways get a first-hand view of just how VERY wrong the ‘superhero’ assumption is…

The issue ends with the parents (now revealed as the villainous cabal known as ‘The Pride’) hearing Nico’s scream of distress, leaving us on a disturbing-but well-earned cliffhanger.  Subsequent issues would get even weirder, with revelations of alien heritage, mutant powers, genetically modified dinosaurs and more, including full-on magical powers bestowed upon one of our crew.  Given how strange the Runaways adventures actually got, I had forgotten that they were ever this down-to-earth (or this young and innocent) to begin with, and the fact that one of them is actually a villain/mole/jerk is even more shocking in retrospect…

Most interesting to me is the presence of new Marvel EIC C.B. Cebulski as the editor of this issue.  The Tsunami line was, after all, a manga-inspired line, and Cebulski’s run as pseudonymous possibly-pretending-to-be-Asian-depending-on-whom-you-believe “Akira Yoshida” would have been in the works at this point.  Could the Tsunami connection have been the genesis of that bad idea?  We may never know, but Runaways #1 is one of those rare modern age books that is both critically acclaimed AND keeps going up in value and rightfully so, with strong art (although I’m a little less in love with the coloring and computer visual effects than the editorial team of 2003 obviously was) and intriguing premise, and most of all, relatable and fun characters, earning 4 out of 5 stars overall.

Best of all, it’s not all about the terrible parents…

Have you ever wondered why with all the superheroes located on the East Coast, there aren't a million super-villain teams just rippin; California to shreds?  You're not the only one. (For my part, I just wondered why we spent so much time with the awful parents in their TV show.)  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Runaways #1 awaits! RUNAWAYS #1 Writer: Bryan K. Vaughan Penciler: Adrian Alphona Inker: David Newbold Colorist: Brian Reber Letterer: Paul Tutrone Editor: C.B. Cebulski Publisher: Tsunami/Marvel Comics Cover Price: $2.50 Current Near-Mint Pricing: $70.00 Previously in Runaways: The dawn of the 21st Century was…
An intriguing start for a series that would just get weirder and weirder... It's a shame that this book couldn't keep being this good.

RUNAWAYS #1

Writing
Art
Coloring

An intriguing start for a series that would just get weirder and weirder... It's a shame that this book couldn't keep being this good.

User Rating: 5 ( 1 votes)

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.