By Todd A. Brownlie
Stepping into a comic book series can be confusing and frustrating for most newcomers. Big name heroes, like the X-Men and Captain America, have been around for decades, with story arcs and characters so fleshed-out, it requires constant research into their past history. Maybe it’s the lack of dialogue or even a thin, uninspired plot in a series that will instantly cause you to set the issue down and just walk away.
Fret not, my little nerdling-wannabes, I have just the fix for your ink-cravings: the Runaways.
Conceived and written by Brian K. Vaughn, the story follows a group of L.A. teens who find out that their parents are part of an underground super villain team known as The Pride. After witnessing their parents committing a horrible crime, the teens soon discover their own true potential and vow to run away, never to become like their guardians.
The ongoing storyline is amazingly engrossing, never weak in the plot, but always humorous and entertaining. There are several mentions and cameos of other superheroes and villains along the way, but nothing that would severely stump the novice comic reader. Characters are fleshed-out extremely well, and it’s hard not to become attached to each teen page after page. Their dialogue is fun, yet poignant, rarely ever cliché, and littered with so many pop culture references, that you almost instantly identify with them.
As you read, you may even get this feeling of “Wow . . . Joss Whedon could have had his hands in this.” Which is funny, because he became such a big fan himself, and later wrote issues 25-30. However, Brian K. Vaughn definitely has a grasp on his characters and it definitely shows.
But the writing isn’t the only thing that shines about the Runaways. It’s worth taking a peek at it for the art alone. Action sequences reek of action, and emotions are flawlessly portrayed on each teen’s face. It’s never too gritty, but precise enough to match the overall tone of the characters and world the teens live in. Then there’s Jo Chen, the artist who did most of the cover art for the series (and is currently doing art/covers for Joss’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8).
If you’re ready to take the plunge, I’ve got some options on how you can catch up on the growing world of the Runaways. My first suggestion would be to purchase the hardcover compilation of issues 1-18, titled Runaways, Vol. 1.
Or, you can collect all the paperback compilations, volumes 1 through 8 respectively, as I did. Anyway you cut it, each volume contains each issue’s cover art, and nothing has been edited; however, the hardcover editions have interviews and bonus artwork to enjoy.
So there. I’ve officially given you a chance to take comic books for a test drive. Whether you’ve just recently obtained your permit, or you’re a comic book drag racer by nature, this is a road you’ll want to take a drive down . . . maybe even make a stop or two to take pictures and enjoy the scenery.