||[May. 6th, 2010|08:56 am]
100 COMICS TO READ BEFORE YOU DIE (or grow out of them)
#30 RUNAWAYS #1-18 – Brian K. Vaughan, Adrian Alphona
“I’ve known our parents were evil since I was five. This perverted little gathering just confirms it.”
A lot of comics are about some aspect of growing up; it’s a natural preoccupation for a medium so often targeted at the young. Marvel Comics in particular have perfected the idea of characters who dramatise the move into adulthood by exaggerating it into something epic, as The X-Men and Spider-man do. The thing being exaggerated in Runaways is rebellion.
It’s a bit creepy when you meet someone whose worldview and politics are identical to those of their parents, as if they were perhaps grown in a pod rather than ever having gone through that phase of rejecting their parents' ideals. The characters in Runaways aren’t rebelling purely as a way of carving out their own identities, however. When they discover that their parents are a cabal of supervillains it’s a little more traumatic than being embarrassed because your folks said something racially insensitive in front of your new friends.
The parents in Runaways are members of a group called The Pride who secretly control Los Angeles – in fact, all of California. Setting the comic in LA rather than New York, where most of Marvel’s heroes and villains live, creates some distance from the crowded shared setting. Spider-man and Captain America are faraway figures familiar to the characters from computer games rather than people they expect to meet in rooftop battles.
The runaways in Runaways do, of course, become superheroes in rebellion against their parents, but of an atypical kind. Kitted out with powers inherited or stolen from their parents, they adopt codenames for all of two issues before getting bored of them and slipping back to their real names (even Gertrude, the one character who isn’t shocked to discover her parents are evil, presumably because they proved it by naming her Gertrude). Only Molly, the youngest member, ever tries dressing up like a crimefighter and then it’s in kitchen gloves and a towel.
Runaways isn’t really about growing up at all, and it’s certainly not about being the kind of outcasts who find a new family with kindly father-figure Professor Xavier and beery Uncle Wolverine. It’s about trying to convince people to call you by your cool new nickname, dressing like an idiot and cringing about it afterwards, kissing the wrong boy and thinking you’ve got everything figured out. Though the series was renewed after its initial run ended, it’s apt that the original didn’t make it past the teens because that’s the period it illustrates so perfectly.