Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Adrian Alphona
Publisher: Marvel Comics
"Parental Guidance" reaches the midway point, and for a while there it looked like I'd need the Jaws of Life to pry this issue out of my fingers.
There's a lot to like about Brian K. Vaughan's writing in general: he has a great feel for individualized, fleshed-out characters, his dialogue is toned-down without being trite, his structuring is immaculate, and he knows how to create atmosphere, drama and mystery. Plus he has that irritating knack for crafting edge-of-your-seat cliffhangers.
But if you're a long-time reader of his work, you get an added bonus, because every now and then he'll cook up a storyline that pulls in multiple plot threads from previous arcs. Now, this is a common practice in ongoing runs, but I can think of few writers in today's industry that manage to weave together old strands as seamlessly, as effortlessly as Vaughan does. It's all contextualized nicely, both for new readers and for ones like myself who mignt not recall every intricate detail Vaughan has already set up.
This issue clarifies a bit of what's been going on and demonstrates how things are starting to come together: Geoff Wilder's plan echoes that of the first Pride (not good news for Molly), some old characters return (including a trio that had a huge part in last season's finale, pun intended), and we even get a glimpse at a significant site from the kids' past (the James Dean statue, nicely setting up the last-page revelation).
In a way, what Vaughan is doing here is looking at what's already happened, except everything that was put on hold until now gets released. Secrets are exposed, dormant tensions flare, and the complicated relationships among the Runaways themselves take center stage. It's a nice contrast to last issue's big showdown, an effective shift of pace before resuming the build-up to the inevitable climax.
I'll take a moment to address the artwork, even though it's not my strong suit: Adrian Alphona's approach to this series remains interesting in terms of the variety he uses when illustrating the characters. Some look relatively realistic, others look like Bobbleheads, and some look downright cartoonish (like the overweight member of the New Pride). It should be jarring, but somehow it all blends together nicely.
This is Runaways at its best: exciting, littered with interesting character moments, and full of surprises.
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