Comics/Graphic Novels

I’m Just a Teenage Dirtbag Superhero: Noelle Stevenson and Runaways #1

My relationship (as a reader) with the Runaways is much the same as the one I have with Noelle Stevenson — I am not (yet) a completist, but I love them a whole lot and pick them up whenever I can. (If I could, I would absolutely be on the Runaways before any other superhero team, and/or accept a role as the reincarnation/lost twin sister/newly discovered clone of Gert.) (I met Noelle Stevenson twice at Toronto Comics Arts Festival because I stood in her line twice and she was lovely both times.) So, as I am sure was true for many of you, when I heard the announcement that Stevenson would be writing the new Runaways, I was like

Dwayne Johnson standing applause gif
Because if there is anyone who excels at teen voices, it is Stevenson. Her web-comic (and now book!) Nimona follows the adventures of a shape-shifting, morally compromised teenager; she’s part of the Lumberjanes team, which as we all know is one of the ultimate all-ages comics in the history of the genre; and her Twitter is a thing of beauty and wit.

Secret Wars Runaways 1 cover

art by Sanford Greene

As you can see from the cover, there are a lot of familiar faces here — just not necessarily original Runaways. Since I actually said to my comic-shop-guy a month ago that I didn’t care who was on the new team as long as it included Molly Hayes, I’m gonna call this one a win! (Although I am also hoping for an eventual meeting of the Runaways and A-Force, so that we can have a Nico-Molly reunion. Although maybe they wouldn’t remember each other because this is the Doomiverse and everyone has at least partial amnesia? I DON’T KNOW. A fan can dream.) Bruiser forever! And Bruiser she still is, throwing around pieces of architecture and taking on the big guys and generally being too young for these shenanigans but that is certainly not going to stop her.

I was also delighted to see our old friends Cloak and Dagger, a.k.a. Tyrone and Tandy, who you might remember from the Brian K. Vaughan run of Runaways. Their powers and background absolutely fascinate me, so I’m always up for more of them. And then we have a hulk, Amadeus Cho, and …

OMG IS THAT BUCKY BARNES?! The guyliner, the robotic arm, the red star, IT IS. I can not help but wonder what kind of backroom horse-trading Stevenson had to do to get dibs on Bucky, and I salute her. (I imagine it as an epic thumb-wrestling battle that went on for nine days and from which she emerged triumphant after finally taking out Ed Brubaker. I have a vivid imagination, what can I say.) It’s clear from this first issue that we’ll be seeing a lot of Barnes, but maybe not quite in the way you might expect. There are other, equally exciting, MU characters involved; how delighted am I that our alpha teenage dirtbag is Jubilation Lee? SO DELIGHTED. And in case anyone out there in merch is reading, I am already jonesing for a #TeamDelphyne shirt.

Runaways #1 inhabits the Venn Diagram of Runaways and Noelle Stevenson nicely.  Put a bunch of hyperpowered, hormonally driven, often mal-adjusted teenagers in a school staffed by Doombots and minions; introduce high-level competition; light fuse; step back and watch the fireworks.

Venn Diagram of Noelle Stevenson and Runawys

And joking aside, the character elements we’ve come to love and expect from Stevenson are all present. Her utilization of a broad range of body- and self-expressions — different physical types, gender and sexual fluidity, style preferences, personality and skill-set variations, they’re all here and all off to a good start. And Sanford Greene’s art is a good match; it has a sketchy quality to it that I love, as well as anime influences that give certain panels a truly lighthearted feel. While it’s early days to know too much about how the plot will develop, Issue 1 is off to a solid start. With just enough scene-setting to make me feel comfortable with the characters and their environment, an ante-upping plot, and a GREAT BIG WTF moment at the end, I’m hooked.


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