Title: Runaways: Find Your Way Home (Volume 1)
Writer: Rainbow Rowell
Artists: Kris Anka
Cover Artist: Kris Anka
Colors: Matthew Wilson
Letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Assistant Editor: Kathleen Wiseneski
Editor: Nick Lowe
Get ready to run because the super kids are back! After parting ways (and publication gap of about a decade) the Runaways are finally reunited.
(THIS REVIEW IS NOT SPOILER FREE!)
WHERE ARE THEY NOW:
The Runaways have split up. After the events of Avengers Arena and A-Force, Nico has gone her own way. Chase has wandered with Old Lace. Karolina is in college and in a relationship with Julie Power. Molly lives with her grandmother. And Victor and Gert are…well…dead…
Nico is in her apartment and lamenting the fact that she is alone. She lost her fellow Runaways and parted ways with A-Force. Things seem bleak until Chase crash lands the Yorkes’ D-4 Time Portico right on top of her bed.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Chase is cradling a nearly dead Gert in his arms. The two have to act fast to try and save Gert. Nico uses her staff to summon a doctor who, with artful wordplay from Nico, is just barely able to save Gert’s life.
Nico sends the doctor home and Gert eventually regains consciousness.
GERT PLAYS CATCH UP:
Gert finally comes around and suffers the shock that, while she survived her encounter with Geoffry Wilder, she suddenly finds herself 2 years in the future.
Gert, Nico, and Chase catch a Lyft to Chase’s new hideout: another underground hotel close to where The Hostel was.
Gert begins to interrogate Nico and Chase. She points out that she was with their past selves only a few moments ago.
Chase and Nico briefly touch on being abducted and dropped on Murder World. Chase explains when he and Nico got back, Nico took off, Molly’s grandmother came for her, and Karolina left to attend college and further her relationship with Julie.
Gert. Is. Pissed. Like super pissed. But before she can go off she’s reunited with everyone’s favorite deinonychus: Old Lace.
Nico and Chase break the news to Gert that Victor died while on a mission for the Avengers. (Victor was killed by Virginia Vision in Vision.)
Chase mentions Tony Stark sent him a box of Victor’s personal effects that he never opened.
They open the box to find Victor’s severed head. (Remember: Victor Mancha is a cyborg, so he’s not dead-dead. Only mostly dead.)
Spoiler: Victor is only in standby mode.
Nico, Gert, Chase, and the mostly dead head of Victor Mancha travel to Pomona College to track down Karolina.
They show up at her dorm room and (understandably) Karolina is shocked when she opens her door to see Gert. However, the tipping point for Karolina was seeing Nico. (More on that in about 9 issues.)
The Runaways try to convince Karolina to rejoin but she declines, saying that she’s happy where she is. Nico hangs back and she and Karolina have a deeply emotional (and totally not riddled with subtext) conversation. Karolina again declines and Nico leaves.
Spoiler: Karolina is not okay after that.
MOLLY AND VICTOR:
After failing to recruit Karolina, the Runaways travel to Molly’s grandmother, Dr. Hayes’, home to meet with Molly. She and Gert have an emotional reunion and Dr. Hayes welcomes them in.
She explains she raised Molly’s parents, Gene and Alice, together after Gene ran away from home.
After dinner and catching up, Dr. Hayes and Chase begin to make plans to reactivate Victor (who Chase has already activated, albeit unknowingly). Molly reveals to Nico and Gert that she’s happy where she is and she wants to stay.
Afterward, Victor reveals to Molly that he is alive and tells her that he’s going to pretend to be dead for a while longer.
We see Dr. Hayes take an interest in all the kids and she insists on taking blood samples from Gert (because she’s traveled through time) and even manages to sneak a hair sample from Victor and a blood sample from Old Lace. (Have you gathered she’s evil? Because she is.) Dr. Hayes also has dozens of cats all over the house and there appears to be something more to them.
After a conversation with Dr. Hayes, Gert tells Nico and Chase that she and Lace are staying with Molly and Dr. Hayes.
Nico and Chase are heartbroken but leave. Chase goes to The Hostel with Victor and Nico goes to her apartment, alone.
Gert tries to settle in at Dr. Hayes’ with Molly and the legion of cats that live there, but Molly begins to let on that things aren’t what they seem. Molly is paranoid around the cats and is constantly running songs through her head.
As Dr. Hayes’ behavior becomes more and more suspicious (taking more blood samples, running tests, and totally not hiding something in the basement), Molly reveals the truth to Gert; The cats are telepathic and are monitoring her and Gert’s thoughts and reporting to Dr. Hayes.
Chase, depressed and drunk, is still tinkering with Victor but is verbally berating Victor for the actions of Victorious (Victor’s evil alternate future self).
Victor gets fed up and yells at Chase to shut up, revealing to Chase that he is active. Victor tells Chase that Gert and Molly need rescuing from Dr. Hayes or “that weird lady” because he doesn’t trust her.
Meanwhile, Nico is wallowing in her solitude and depression when her greatest love and her greatest regret comes knocking at her door: Karolina.
Karolina explains Julie looked up Nico’s address in The Avengers Database and Nico expresses jealousy at the mention of Julie.
Karolina explains that she has pretty much changed her mind and wants to reunite, but Nico explains “rumors of our reunion have been greatly exaggerated.”
The two sit in an awkward silence before Nico makes it even more awkward by leaning in to kiss Karolina. After a moment of shock, Karolina refuses her exclaiming “Nico! I have a girlfriend!” (We all know Karolina is still in love with her, but Karolina wants to be faithful.)
After a truly angsty moment between the two of them, Chase and Victor bust it to recruit them.
Molly and Gert have decided to try and escape but they are caught by Dr. Hayes. The Runaways make their entrance before Gert can be harmed.
A Runaways’ style fight ensues and Dr. Hayes reveals she genetically engineered both of Molly’s parents but tried to talk them out of joining Pride.
More horrifying still is she has cloned Molly’s mother. Upon seeing the cloned Alice Hayes, Molly chooses to leave.
Dr. Hayes orders clone Alice to attack. After Nico suffers an injury, Karolina loses her mind and ends the fight in seconds.
For the first time in this run, all our superkids are finally back together. They agree to call the Avengers, make friends with the one cat who wasn’t a dick, and decide to go home.
As a family.
WHAT MARY HAS TO SAY:
The first thing I want to say is: it’s about damn time.
The Runaways are back and I couldn’t be happier. I remember picking up the first issue roughly 15 years ago and immediately falling in love with these characters. The Runaways always held a special place in my heart and when I heard the series was getting revived I damn near lost it.
(I think I was more excited for the comic revival than I was the Hulu show.)
While excited, I was extremely nervous to see the comic rebooted. So much had happened in continuity since the last Runaways ongoing wrapped up in 2009.
(Chase and Nico were on Murderworld. Karolina and Molly were at Avengers Academy. Karolina was dating. Chase and Nico came back from Murderworld. Chase went off on his own. Nico joined up with the A-Force. Victor accidentally killed someone and then was murdered while in prison. So, yeah, a lot had happened.)
Rainbow Rowell had a lot of source material to work with, but she also had A LOT to try and write in as fast as she could.
Boy howdy, does she pull it off. She is able to pull all of the previous volumes together and merge it with the current one damn near seamlessly. She tracks the growth for each character over about a decade’s worth of material across numerous books and builds a new story and dynamic without abandoning what made us fall in love with this group so long ago.
Given the fact that comic continuity becomes more muddled every day, this is damn impressive.
I think the most impressive feat accomplished is convincingly bringing Gert back from the dead. Rowell could have done some magical comic hand waving crap to bring Gert back, but she takes her time and comes up with a storyline that fits perfectly with Runaways canon.
As a result, Gert becomes an interesting plot device outside of her resurrection. She’s a meta-character but also a very clever means of exposition. It’s brilliant because it’s a way to ease in new readers while serving as a refresher for older fans. She manages to do all of this without sacrificing Gert’s personality. The exposition and explanations are met with Gert’s trademark sarcasm and overt nihilism.
You’ll have to pardon the following shipping content:
Now, being the hopeless lesbian that I am, I was over the moon at the concrete confirmation of Nico’s sexuality and her attraction to Karolina. The attraction and romance between the two have been a long-running plot point. This arc sets up the final act of that (13-year-long) story.
In terms of the overall plot: This is a story about reunion and about how we pick our family. The first 4 issues delve into where everyone has been and what they’ve been up to.
Molly’s grandmother is a bit of a lackluster villain at times and I’m not sure how I feel about the retcon with Molly’s parents being genetically engineered mutants, but it serves its purpose as the catalyst to bring the family back together.
But there are points established in this run that I hope get expanded upon in the future. (Like Chase having powers?!?!)
While Rowell deserves praise for her script, equal praise should be given to the art team of Kris Anka and Matthew Wilson.
Oh. My. God. These two are amazing.
The Runaways have been blessed with some truly gifted artists over the years, but Anka is hands down the best artist the series has ever had. He combines amazing facial expressions, detailed body designs, gorgeous action shots paired with minimalistic backgrounds, and amazing fashion and hair to bolster Rowell’s script.
Now, I normally hate these kinds of backgrounds because I think it looks lazy.
However, Anka pairs his minimalistic backgrounds with highly detailed clothing, action, and conversation (yes, conversation). This paring pulls you into that situation.
Take this panel from earlier:
The lack of a detailed background paired with the detailed expressions, makeup, hair, and facial features pull us in deeper to the emotional conflict between Nico and Karlona.
(I need to praise Anka’s details on hair and makeup because holy hell they are phenomenal!)
What pulls the scene together is Wilson’s colors. I mean, my god, just look at them. The color saturation and balance are perfect.
For example the shading behind Nico and Karolina. It helps highlight the divide between them. Nico is illuminated in the panel. She’s “seen the light.” She finally understands her feelings and wants to make a move. Karolina is shadowed because she’s pulling away from her feelings for Nico.
It’s this attention to detail that pulls everything together. The script, art, and colors are all working together in perfect harmony.
Speaking of colors: special praise needs to be given to Wilson.
Karolina Dean has to be a color artist’s absolute worst NIGHTMARE. She’s essentially a living rainbow, mood ring, and kaleidoscope all rolled into one. The colors can never be uniform and have to appear to swirl and move.
Wilson does this masterfully.
Every bit of his color work is amazing, but Karolina in her real form is the pièce de résistance.
Caramagna’s letters shouldn’t be ignored either.
This is a detail-oriented comic and clunky lettering would absolutely ruin the atmosphere. While a minimalist background offers a lot of negative space to use for lettering, there is still a high risk of sloppy placement detracting from the details.
Caramagna letters gracefully around Anka’s art. There isn’t a single panel in this trade where I thought the letters were distracting or too much.
In conclusion, I can’t praise this revival enough. The Runaways had been gone for a long time and Marvel could have done a fly-by-night random mini, but they didn’t.
The superstar teams of Rowell, Anka, Wilson, and
Runaways is a book that meant a lot to me then and still means a lot to me now.
It’s good to know that, after all these years, the kids are alright.