“True Believers: Part 3”
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Adrian Alphona
Inks: Craig Yeung
Letterer: Virtual Calligraphy’s Randy Gentile
Editor: C.B Cebulski
Publisher: Marvel Comics
After learning that their parents were a group of notorious super-villains known as “The Pride”, six Los Angeles area teenagers ran away from home, determined to thwart their parent’s evil schemes. Now, after taking down the Pride and discovering the full extent of their powers, the Runaways are back. This time however, a dying visitor from the future puts them on a collision course with a young man who may eventually become one of the most powerful villains on Earth. But before the Runaways can act, they must first face a support group for “recovering” teenage super heroes who have reluctantly donned their old costumes for one final mission.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: A group of teenagers discover they have super powers, become an elite team of spandex clad do-gooders and kick the crap out of a gaggle of scheming super villains. Of course, these adolescent do-gooders don’t think, speak or behave anything like real teenagers. They don’t have to worry about acne, or curfews, or parents, or being overweight. In short, they are super teens living in a world without an ounce of realism—which in many ways might be what a lot of young comic book readers are looking for these days.
Now picture a comic that is based on the wonderful premise that a bunch of spoiled teenagers’ discover their parents are in fact diabolical super villains, and that they too have inherited a wide range of powers and abilities (i.e. a magical staff, alien super powers, mutant strength, high-tech robotic gauntlets etc). More to the point, these teenagers actually think, speak and behave like normal teenagers. This is essentially the crux of Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona’s comic book opus Runaways.
Indeed, at first glance Runaways may appear to be your standard run of the mill teen super hero yarn, but in reality it is a thoughtful blending of humor, action and character development along with being a brilliant deconstruction of the super hero genre itself. Indeed, in many ways Runaways is doing what the very best comic books these days are doing, that is to say, combining the fantasy of the super hero—with its larger than life adventures (and occasionally larger than life cleavage)—with the reality of living in today’s world. Runaways also has the distinction of being one of the few teen super hero comics that deals with the all too real challenges of being an adolescent, and presents characters that are believable, well developed and relatable (particularly to young readers). The character of Gertrude for example (the daughter of a pair of diabolical time travelers and the proud owner of her own genetically engineered Velociraptor from the 31st century) is not your standard spandex clad heroine. She is overweight, geeky, sarcastic and far more intelligent than most people give her credit for—in many ways, she is the archetypical teen. And it is this brilliant and truly inspired blend of fantasy and reality that makes Runaways more than just an entertaining read—it makes it something that may have a profound impact of the comic book medium itself.
Now on issue #3 of volume 2 (after an initial 18 issue run in volume 1), the story picks up with the Runaways facing off against a support group for former child super heroes who are now struggling to find their place in civilian life. In previous issues the support group was contacted by a mysterious benefactor who offered them a lucrative sum of money to aid in their rehabilitation if they agreed to assume their secret identities for one last mission: namely to take down the Runaways. The concept of a support group for “recovering vigilantes” is absolutely inspired and is made all the more entertaining by the fact that the group is composed of a veritable Who’s-Who of former B-Grade Marvel superheroes (namely: Darkhawk, Lightspeed (of the Power Pack), Turbo (of the New Warriors), Chamber (of Generation X) and Ricochet.) It is a classic case of Vaughan’s ability to both deconstruct the super hero genre and provide a wildly entertaining plot device.
Meanwhile the Runaways themselves are tracking down an L.A high school student named Victor Mancha who may or may not be developing into one of the most powerful villains in the Marvel Universe (at least according to a future version of Gertrude who insists before dying, that Manchu is going to dominate the world). Before the Runaways can confront Manchu however, they face off against the super hero support group and by the close of the issue all hell has effectively broken loose.
There is something wonderfully entertaining about Vaughan’s script in issue #3, with the Runaways stumbling and bantering their way through each situation just like real teenagers would. Brian Michael Bendis is often credited for his realistic dialogue, but Bendis can’t hold a candle to Vaughan when it comes to delivering top notch dialogue or scripts. It is a rare comic book that is able to be smart, insightful and clever without devolving into satire. What’s more, Runaways also had an incredible story, a well paced narrative style, and a group of characters that are realistic and entertaining. In all respects, Vaughan is really at the top of his game here (and this is in comparison to his almost flawless script work on Y: The Last Man and the jaw-droppingly brilliant Ex Machina).
What’s more, the stunning visuals of Adrian Alphona defy description, particularly in that his art is a refreshing and non-traditional glimpse into the Marvel Universe.
In the end Runaways is easily one of the best new titles coming out of Marvel and issue #3 is no exception. The writing is smart, funny, entertaining and insightful, and the art is phenomenal. Forget adamantium claws, web shooters, and optic beams, you’re looking at the new future of Marvel comics and its name is Runaways.
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