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Runaways Vol. 1 (Hardcover)
Review by James W. Powell

Runaways Vol. 1

Brian K. Vaughan
Adrian Alphona and
Takeshi Miyazawa
Craig Yeung and
David Newbold
Christina Strain and
Brian Reber
Randy Gentile and Chris Eliopoulos w/ Paul Tutrone

Marvel Comics
Hardcover Collection
Publish Date
August 10, 2005
Cover Price US

You know, sometimes all you need is a good premise. For Runaways, writer Brian K. Vaughan realized that at some point, all kids think their parents are evil. But what if they really were? Vaughan throws this question into the realm of superheroes and runs with it. Lucky for us, the writer has the stamina for a marathon and not a sprint because this story just keeps getting better and better.

Runaways WilderIn the Runaways Vol. 1 hardcover, we get the entire 18-issue first season of the series. And while the story continues on the shelves each and every month, this collection has a nice 'n tidy conclusion that'll satisfy those who aren't looking for yet another cliffhanger. But boy, believe me, Vaughan is the master of the cliffhanger, which makes reading this book each month a true delight. Yet reading it in one or two sittings is certainly just as fun.

Runaways opens on a group of teens thrust together again as their parents gather for grown up stuff. Of course, the kids don't like the idea, but soon enough, the group finds out their parents aren't just the evil 'rents they're expecting. Nope, they're super villains, too. So now they're on the run, trying to come to grips with the revelation while at the same time trying to come up with ways to take their parents down.

This could easily come across as overly comical drivel, but Vaughan manages the premise expertly. For me, the most important aspect of this book is the subtle (and sometime outright) humor. The story is loaded with teen angst as each member of the group must grow accustomed to the fact that their parents are the bad guys. But while this is pretty heavy stuff to bear, Vaughan throws in some levity with a witty retort or a perfectly timed pop culture reference. Runaways isn't a comedy, but the comedy relief helps propel the energy of the story to new heights.

Of course, a story like this couldn't work if it wasn't in some way grounded in reality. Sure, a girl who has a staff pop out of her chest and cast spells isn't something you'd find in a documentary, but Vaughan gives Rachel an identity that screams truth. Rachel, and all the other kids, are real. Their language and style, their thoughts and emotions. Everything feels right because they're kids, not the adult representation of youth that most comics seem to pass off these days.

Runaways is fun, too. Watching the group of kids run away from home and begin to bond with one another as they slowly uncover hidden powers and talents is simply an entertaining story. So is looking for clues and trying to solve the question of who could be the traitor among them. It's just another layer of storytelling that makes this book a total page turner.


Runaways interior imageI think Marvel did a huge disservice to Adrian Alphona when the company published Runaways in digest size on less than ideal paper. Sure, doing so helped get the book into more hands, which I'm all for, but the art suffered. Now, however, Marvel makes up for their decision by reproducing the story here in a bigger, more vibrant format. And boy does it look amazing.

Runaways has style. And so do the characters in the book. Just like the kids act like teenagers, they look like them, too. And that gives the story credibility along with the fun. Yet while Alphona's pencils bring each character to life with their own personality, it's the shading and colors that really make them dance. I can't tell you how often I stopped to inspect a panel because of the subtle shading that helps make a character's thoughts easy to read, or the vibrant colors that make the scene stand out from the surroundings.

This book's art really has the whole package, from the pencils to the letters to the fill-in art, it's all top of the line. And presented here like it's never been seen before.

Bonus Features

This book's massive. And it better be with that $35 price tag. But it has to be that big just to house all of the wicked special features, right? Wrong. If you're wanting to upgrade your monthly issues or digest trades in the hopes of getting some hefty extras, you'll have to wait until next time. Sadly, this book is rather lacking when it comes to bonus features.

Runaways MollyUp front you get the typical introduction about the merits of the creative team, but this time, writer Brian K. Vaughan also mentions the fans. Way to go, Brian! Following the 18 chapters you'll find an interesting Letter to the Editor by none other than fan favorite Joss Whedon that proves creators enjoy comics, too. The coolest feature is easily the extended treatment for the story originally created by BKV as his pitch to Marvel. It's definitely cool to get a behind-the-scenes look at the beginning of a series (with some character images to boot).

The treatment is followed by a 6-page Alphona sketchbook that shows some of the early renditions of the cast. I always love these sketchbooks, but I would've liked some comments from the artist. Last up are a couple of promotional pieces and sketches. It should also be noted that the original covers are presented here as chapter stops.

I was disappointed with the lack of bonus material but it's still hard to fault a book that's this kick ass. Just the upgrade in the image is worth the price for me, and if the story is more entertaining because of this new edition, then that's all that really matters.

Final Words

Runaways is one of the most original, fun comics to come out of Marvel in a very long time, and this upgraded presentation is nearly perfect. Sure, I didn't see as many bonus features as I would've liked, but man, the artwork just jumps off the page and looks spectacular in this bigger format. I have no problem recommending this book to those who already own the comics or trades and for those who were unfortunate enough to have missed out the first two times around.

Highly Recommended

James has written for such fine web sites as DVDtalk, Broken Frontier, and Paperback Reader. He lives in Denver with his lovely wife and two cats who wake him up at 3 a.m.
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