The Runaways and Generations are both back this week along with a brand new installment of The Marvel Rundown! Are you ready to run?
Written by Rainbow Rowell
Drawn by Kris Anka
Colored by Matthew Wilson
Lettered by VC’s Joe Caramagna
Reviewed by Alexander Jones
After years without an ongoing comic book to call home, the Runaways have returned. Novelist Rainbow Rowell is making her Marvel debut with the new series starring the teen heroes. Going into this book with a relatively blank slate, I wondered what entry point Rowell would capture with the ensemble cast of the book so spread out over the past couple of years at Marvel, making a soft reboot of the franchise necessary. Rowell starts the script with a bang, reintroducing several fan-favorite characters, but not every aspect of the series in one issue. The writer wisely takes the approach of spreading out the elements, distilling only the aspects of the Runaways needed for her debut. However, this installment transpires over a shockingly compressed amount of time. Much of the time is enjoyable– and the medium of comics is serialized– but based on this single issue alone, there is a lot more about the characters and concepts left to be explored. Rowell does not establish a status quo for these characters either, making the issue seem hollow.
The sparse aspects that do fill the pages of the debut are filled with emotion and nail the characterization of the team which lots of writers have struggled with in the past. The comic has the right tone and attitude to match the original Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona title and carries the beautiful Kris Anka art that lives up to the original. The artists’ relaxed tone adds a lot to the story that wouldn’t have been present otherwise. The clothes he pairs to each character perfectly fit their personality and show the attention to detail he committed to the debut. When you pair Matthew Wilson’s vivid colors with Anka’s work and Rowell’s vision for the title it became clear to me Runaways #1 is accomplishing exactly the tone it wants to with a creative that feels perfectly in sync. With such a remarkably clear vision and strong art direction, I hope Marvel will keep this team together in the longterm, as the publisher has a tendency to shuffle Anka around to launch newer projects.
Introducing such a strange group of heroes and keeping everything in continuity is a difficult task, but the creative team shows they haven’t forgotten about the other team affiliations or scattered past of any character introduced here. Without the context of the rest of the series, it is hard to exactly know what to make of this issue. I think Rowell is channeling a slow-burn Greg Rucka-influenced take on the team as this installment of the series covers such a small amount of ground. The solicitation for the title teases a full cast and as mentioned above, cramming each character into one issue might have made this script feel overstuffed. With some of the team members deceased and gone, there’s an aspect of this title that feels cold–I hope Rowell is able to overcome the feeling by adding more members to future issues.
Even with a compressed amount of time, this issue is loaded with charming narration and a couple of writing techniques for comics few writers use. I loved the way Rowell was bouncing from caption to dialogue in this story. Unlike the comics debuts of some prose creators, this book wasn’t filled with endless dialogue boxes or captions either–the approach felt very measured and let Anka and Wilson do some of the heavy lifting. Aside from tone, this story also has the right energy, the sense of urgency and stakes propel each scene here. The comic book is paced well as it starts whisper quiet, dials up to a really emotional scene in the middle and teases the future of the book at the end.
Similar to the opening of the original title, there’s no direct fight scene in or huge middle sequence in the story. This comic just features a return to the characters readers have been waiting for. After years of fans hungry for more, Marvel has finally grouped these fan-favorite characters under one roof with a solid creative team and direction for the book. While Runaways #1 only offers a brief look at a few series favorites, the emotion throughout the book is potent.
Final Verdict: Strong Borrow–Runaways #1 is a nuanced, cryptic reintroduction to a beloved team of young Marvel heroes.
Generations: Captain Marvel & Captain Mar-vell #1
Written by Margaret Stohl
Drawn by Brent Schoonover
Colored by Jordan Boyd
Lettered by VC’s Joe Caramagna
Reviewed by AJ Frost
“I don’t think the Munchkins carried blasters.”
So begins the latest Generations one-shot featuring the classic and contemporary iterations of Captain Marvel. And, for all intents and purposes, the constant Oz references stand out as particularly erroneous in the context of this issue, which to be sure, is one of the least engaging stories yet in the Generations line. I am not sure what is the cause of the narrative weakness, but Generations: Captain Marvel & Captain Mar-vell #1 did not work for me in the least. Compared with some of the other titles in the Generations series, there was little in the way of capturing the energy of what makes Captain Marvel a compelling character found in these pages. Indeed, I feel that the effort placed to integrate the (forced) wit of Carol Danvers with a half-baked, time travel, wacky team-up universe domination yarn was a big step backward.
Hopefully, it’s not cynicism guiding me toward this view. I’m sure writer Margaret Stohl had all the best intentions of co g the duo of Captain Marvel/Mar-vell characters in a way that was interesting, but the entire issue falls short. The main thrust of the story—that Carol somehow finds her way into the Negative Zone in the middle of an epic battle—has potential, but ends up meandering around a little too much. The Carol presented here (irksomely given the appellation “Car-ell”) would be more interesting if there was more motivation for her to participate in the world around her rather than just immediately attack the narratively-convenient interlopers who appear to be invading the planet she is suddenly transported to for no reason. It isn’t clear exactly what is going on for the reader, yet we are supposed to take sides in a war that we have no access to on an empathetic level.
Meanwhile, the introduction of the classic Captain Marvel is just as haphazard, as he appears deus ex machina style to team up with Carol to go on an adventure to rout out the super-villain through both peace, understanding, and a swift punch across the chops. I’m not saying that the overall plot has to be a complex web of arcs, but at the least, the situation should engender some sort of empathy for our heroes. But every character presented here is only a one-dimensional representation. All in al, it’s a mess.
The art from Brent Schoonover fares much better. He has a nice feel for the retro elements that Marvel is surely going for (I caught Kirby vibes more than once) while still appealing to modern sensibilities. He has a good sense for space, layout, and action, and allows for there to be some subtle emotion when the writing itself is not-so-subtle. The colors from Jordan Boyd add a substantial amount to this sense of retro/contemporary working in tandem, and he works wonders by using both the contemporaneous richness of red, blacks, and blues for Captain Marvel with the Silver Age preference gaudy purples and greens. It’s a nice contrast and a highlight for the issue.
Overall, I wish this was just a better issue. The pieces were all there for the taking, but none were picked up. What should have been fun and breezy ended up being more plodding and frustrating than the usual Generations output.
Next week we look at even more superheroes with the Marvel name with our take on Generations: Ms. Marvel & Captain Marvel #1–take off your shoes before reading!
Fruit snack aficionado. @AlexandComics