The Runaways Series Review
I admit I was not into the English Comic Book scene until earlier this year. Because of that, I am now ashamed that I have missed such great stories. This is now one of them.
I didn’t know what the Runaways was until the X-Men Crossover: Event Battle of the Atom took place and unveiled a character from the future called Molly Hayes. Being the curious person that I was, I googled her and found the series. When I do research into a character and their series, I like to be somewhat through and, as a result, found myself interested in the plot and marathon-ed the main series in about three days with distractions.
The Runaways (at least at first) is the story about six kids who find out their parents are a group of super-villains called the Pride, who own a great part of the West Coast which has little to no costumed heroes since most of the super-villains flock to the East Coast. Except for Wonder Man, but he doesn’t count as a hero according to them. The kids decide to run away and have their parents reported to the police, which are owned by the Pride, and end up being blamed for the murder they witnessed their parents comment earlier and kidnapping Molly Hayes.
With no choice they arm themselves and decide to bring down their parents themselves to save the world. Alex Wilder leads the group with his intellect despite possessing no powers, Nico Minoru discovers her powers as a witch, Karolina Dean learns that she’s an alien that derives her abilities from solar energy, Chase Stein steals his parents’ flame-making gauntlets and x-ray goggles, Gertrude Yorkes becomes telepathically bonded to a dinosaur from the 87th century she calls Old Lace, and Molly Haynes discovers she’s a mutant with super strength and invulnerability.
The plot reveals that the Pride were working for six-toed giants who wanted to cleanse the earth of humanity and needed 25 sacrifices to do so over 25 years, with this year being the final one. The kids eventually confront their parents and stop the giants’ plans, but it cost the lives of all their parents and Alex. They were separated by Captain America and sent to foster homes, but they all escaped and stole back Old Lace from Stark’s storage facility deciding to remain Runaways.
In the aftermath of the first volume it is revealed that the Pride prevented most villains from moving onto their turf by eliminating the competition, so with their deaths there was a power vacuum. Now, under the leadership of Nico, the group works to take out all of those looking to fill in the gap when they receive a visit from a future Gertrude Yorkes who warns them about a teenager who becomes a villain before she dies in Chase’s arms.
They confront the teenager, Victor Mancha, which awakens his powers. While Chase was hostile to him, due to the fact that Gert was his girlfriend and he witnessed a future version of her die in his arms, they assist him in retrieving his mother, who is taken hostage. It was revealed he is a child of Ultron, a cyborg who will eventually be able to pass as human in due time. After his mother was killed and Ultron was destroyed, the team takes him into their ranks.
Later on Karolina was chased by a Super Skull named Xavin. It was revealed that her parents arranged a marriage between them as well as sold out their home world to prevent an invasion of earth (which was pointless given the events of Secret Invasion and every other time). Xavin hoped their marriage would cease the hostilities between the Skrull Outpost and her home world. Karolina was originally adverse to the marriage since she’s a lesbian (whose first crush was on Nico), but Xavin shapes shifts to a female form and Karolina left the group to assist in the marriage.
As the series continued the pair returned after hostilities were resparked during the marriage and both the outpost and her home world were destroyed when the Skrulls launched an anti-matter weapon and made a star go supernova. During this time they traveled to New York to assist Cloak and Dagger, who they met in the first series, and dealt with a time-displaced Geoffry Wilder, who sought to sacrifice them in order to resurrect his son and wife. The conflict ended with Gertrude dying in Chase’s arms, giving him her telepathic link to Old Lace.
Chase went mad with grief and consulted with the giants who killed their parents, now stuck in Limbo, who offer to resurrect her for a single soul sacrificed to them. He eventually offered up his own, but since he was willingly giving up his own soul it would not count. In the end the Runaways manage to banish the giants to a realm beyond death, where Alex was assisting the Runaways in atonement to save Chase and fix Victor. Unfortunately they drew the attention of the Avengers and were forced to go to the Kingpin for help.
The Kingpin wanted them to steal an item that was made by the Yorkes, but it was a plot to send them all to 1907, where they met with Lillie, a wonder (meta-human) who could fly, Klara (who could manipulate plants), and the Yorkes. During this trip Victor fell in love with Lillie and she with him, but a war between superpowers broke out after Nico was kidnapped by her ancestor and tortured.
In the end they offered to take Lillie into the future but she was too afraid, instead bringing Klara with them. It was revealed that an aged Lillie was the one who orchestrated the events of the time travel so that she could convince herself to join the man she love rather than live a life of regret, but nothing changed as her past self was too afraid.
In the last volume during the series, the group returns to the West Coast to continue their work but survivors of Karolina’s race came to take her into custody and be held responsible for the destruction of their world since it was her parents that sold them out in the first place. Xavin knocked her out and took her place in the end. The series abruptly ended on hiatus with the Homecoming Arc, where their home was destroyed, Old Lace was seemingly killed, Klara’s powers ran out of control, they were attacked by US Agents, and Chase was hospitalized chasing after a girl who looked like Gert.
Since the series has been on Hiatus since 2009 it is safe to say it won’t start up again, and the movie deal they had seemed to have fallen through. I remain hopeful that one day we’ll see it though. However, the Runaways have not been forgotten. Besides their crossovers with the Young Avengers during the Civil War and Secret Invasion, they’ve appeared in several series since the hiatus.
The first was Daken: Dark Wolverine Issue #19. That issue takes place after the events of the Homecoming Arc that the third volume ended on with Chase having gotten better somehow but no resolution on that Gert doppelganger. Then they appeared in Avengers Academy #27-#28 trying to retrieve Old Lace.
Hank Pym and Tigra are more than willing to help, but since they’ve got a thing about children being runaways, especially Molly and Klara, it leads to the usual hero brawl. This ends quick enough when they decide to talk it out for once and Nico uses a spell to share their experiences with everyone. Hank and Tigra let them go on the condition that the children are brought in once a month for check-ups and Karolina ends up dating Julie Powers after Xavin’s been gone for so long without any contact (which I assume means he’s dead since his people were the ones who blew up their world and they needed a target to hate-on).
After that Victor was recruited into joining Avengers A.I. by his brother, Vision. His characterization seems off, but he hasn’t seen the other Runaways in some time from the sound of it. A future Molly Hayes joined the X-Men in the Battle of the Atom and her present self has been seen in Avenger’s Arena #13, looking for Chase and Nico who she can tell have been missing despite the precautions that Arcade took and Old Lace’s connection to Chase.
Chase and Nico were kidnapped by Arcade in Avengers Arena to participate in Murderworld. There are some continuity issues in Avengers Arena, which is a blatant rip off of Battle Royale (which they even reference in-story as a source of inspiration and I personally recommend the first movie for viewing), such as the issues that Chase and Nico had and the Staff of One being downgraded. It seems like the writers are ignoring Volume 3, which I have admitted to not being a fan of, and some parts at the end of Volume 2.
Anyway, in the story two major things happen so far at the time of the writing between the members of the Runaways:
The first is that Chase becomes the new Darkhawk, courtesy of finding the pendant after the previous wielder went missing from his power turning on itself. Unfortunately the armor is technological and the main villain for the first arc is a technopath. So he’s forced against his will to attack Nico while under Apex’s control and she dies bleeding out in the snow after managing a final spell.
The spell takes effect some time after she’s died, resurrecting her by the Staff of One (which should not be able to bring back the dead but since the spell was cast before she died maybe that was a loophole) using her blood and half-an-arm as a sacrifice. As a result she received the gauntlet that serves as a replacement staff allowing her to cast spells in place of her missing arm and the staff became more of a wand.
As a group they have a generally neutral stand when it comes to heroics. While on good terms with Cloak and Dagger, they dislike the Avengers since they constantly tried to split them up and send them to foster homes. If it benefits them they will work with someone like the Kingpin, although that ended poorly. They don’t particularly trust when it comes to adults but they occasionally connect with other teen heroes.
Born to Geoffrey and Catherine Wilder, Alex is the first character to be introduced to the series. He is a prodigy in Logistics and Strategy and the one to initially suggest spying on their parents’ supposed charity organization. After witnessing their parents’ (who were revealed to be a secret crime ring called “the Pride”) murder of an innocent teenage girl, Alex organizes the mass escape from their parents. He is later revealed to have known about the Pride for a year and served as a Mole, working to ensure that the six spots for paradise would go to his parents, himself, Nico, and Nico’s parents.
For this reason he distanced himself from the other kids, as he felt that they were going to die anyway. Because of Molly’s interference in the ritual and freeing one of the souls, the giants became aggravated and, when he took responsibility for her, they killed him. In the second volume it is shown that he has regretted the actions that he has taken to earn his parent’s approval and assisted the team from a realm beyond death, intent on earning his way out. He showed no hostility to the giants when they join him and even admits that they were probably trying to do the same thing in earning their parent’s approval.
His relationship with Nico was one of the things that hardened her to be the next leader of the Runaways and, despite the fact that he did betray them, she loved him and attempted to resurrect him shortly after his death. His online gamer friends also tried to do the same, although both efforts failed ultimately. The betrayal struck all of the others hard as well, making them more reluctant to forgive treachery and many still hate him to this day.
Nico Minoru (Sister Grimm)
Born to the Evil Magicians Robert and Tina Minoru, Nico herself is a witch whose power comes from the Staff of One, which bonded to her body when her mother attempted to use it against her and only comes out when she bleeds (cutting herself was the most common way, although she disliked it since she wasn’t into that). With it she casts spells using phrases and commands, however the staff itself will only cast the same spell once without failing and she has to summon up painful memories to fuel it in order to get the most out of it.
Later on in the series she gains more power during a trip to the past by being tortured by the her ancestor, as the more pain she can take the greater power she can wield, to the extent she doesn’t need the staff for some minor spells and the staff will eat anyone who tries to use it. After the hiatus and the continuity issues in the Avengers Arena seemed to eliminate those particular power-ups she gained a new one upon her death and resurrection.
Nico becomes the leader in the second volume, where she and the others work to stop the flux of thugs and villains trying to fill in the power vacuum left by their parents’ death. While she considers herself a den mother to them, sewing their clothing and caring for them, she serves as the lynchpin of the group after all they’ve gone through and can be ruthless in dealing with threats to her group.
Nico has been romantically involved with several members of the group due to a psychological need to be close to someone after traumatic experiences or close encounters, which resulted in her romances with Alex (First Kiss) and Victor (Deflowering), as well as her kissing Chase in Volume two.
Her relationship with Alex, who was her first kiss, left her with little tolerance for traitors and she has threatened to deal with those who betray them harshly. Yet she still loves him and attempted to resurrect him without success. Of all of the group she misses him the most at this point.
When Victor came into the picture she opted to give him a chance after losing his mother as long as he did not betray them. Gert’s death motivated her to have sex with him for solace, which they both regretted, but they attempted to start a romance. When Lillie came into the picture she stepped aside, ending their relationship.
With Chase she acts as the motherly figure to his stern approach most of the time. After the incident where she kisses him and Gert’s death, to whom she was an old friend, they’ve had trust issues and clashed several times as she has a case of Survivor’s Guilt since Gert’s death was supposed to be hers. She sees Molly and Klara as little sisters and looks over them. Karolina has a crush on her and, while she doesn’t love her in that way, she sees her as a friend who she cannot bear losing after all of the losses they’ve endured.
Chase Stein (Talkback):
Born to a pair of Mad Scientists, Victor and Janet Stein, Chase Stein was the complete opposite of his parents hopes as he was an athlete rather than an intellectual like they were. Because of this his father often beat him.
Chase uses his parents inventions in combat including Fistigons, the world’s most powerful gauntlets that can create and shape flames, and X-Ray goggles, both of which are destroyed in the first volume. In the second volume he serves as the group’s driver using the Leapfrog and slowly becomes more competent in technology, culminating with a new pair of Fistigons and Footigons in Volume three. He uses a switch blade any other time and, after Gert’s death, he inherits her connection with Old Lace. He has also used the Staff of One, discovered three logic questions that can shut down Victor, and recently gained the Darkhawk amulet.
He is the oldest of the group at eighteen and considered a Wild Card. When Gert died he became darker and out of all of the group he is the most likely to resort to lethal force. Out of all the original Runaways he has the most troublesome past due to his abusive father and neglectful mother, once stating that his power was a “poor upbringing” and has the most street-smarts, but he is fiercely loyal to the group barring the single incident he sought to resurrect Gert with his own death.
Chase’s relationship with the group varies depending on the circumstances, but in general he acts as an surrogate big brother to Klara and Molly, an equal to Nico, and a loyal friend to the others including Victor Mancha later on. With Victor, before their roles switched, he disliked him as his future counterpart killed Gert’s and he has implied that he sees Victor as the son his father, who bore the same name, always wanted. He and Gert were in a relationship, with implied sexual relations, until Nico kissed him and it strained the relationship with her dying in his arms shortly after while saying she loved him and giving him ownership of Old Lace.
Gertrude Yorkes (Arsenic):
Born to the criminal time travelers Stacey and Dale Yorkes, Gertrude was ignorant of their activities until the party but always suspected they were evil. She has a cynical view of the world and boasted the second highest intelligence of the original group. Gert did not think highly of her future self and even though her relationship with Chase softened her, she remained cynical.
Her sole power is her telepathic and empathic link to Old Lace, a genetically engineered dinosaur from the 87th century. They can feel one another and share their pain and experience, meaning that if she dies Old Lace dies unless she transferred the link.
Her relationship with the team consisted of interactions with Nico, Victor, and Chase primarily before her death. Nico was her oldest friend and, as such, she was hit the hardest when she kissed Chase, although they made up before she did with Chase. While Victor’s future self killed hers, she bears little hostility against him and ended up defending him against Chase. It was implied her future self and his were in a closer relationship of sorts.
Her relationship with Chase began near the end of the first volume after she gave him CPR once his heart stopped. Since then they bickered but were in love, with the implication that they slept together. However she was had doubts about her appearance and her relationship (he was a jock and she was a nerd, in her words) so the kiss between Chase and Nico ended things. That being said, she did confront the time-displaced Geoffry Wilder to save Chase at the cost of her own life, telling him she loved him as she died.
While she watched Molly and kept an eye on Karolina, their relationships were distant to an extent. Yet her death impacted them all greatly. Had she lived she would have potentially become the leader of the Avengers under the name Heroine.
Molly Hayes (Bruiser, Princess Powerful):
Born to telepathic mutants Gene and Alice Hayes, Molly is the sole mutant of the group and physically the strongest. She is the youngest until Klara joined the team and the most innocent in terms of her perspective, refusing to believe her parents were evil since she did not witness them sacrificing an innocent girl.
Her parents tested her when she was born for the mutant gene but there were no signs of it until her mutation kicked in when the group formed. Her abilities are opposite of her parents in that she has super strength and invulnerability with the only weakness being that she needed rest after each use until later in the series. She is also one of the most insightful characters and intelligent, although she acts younger than she is to hide it, and was the most keen on being a superhero until later on.
Molly is proud of her heritage as a mutant and once had a crush on Wolverine. Even in the Marvel extended universe she is considered one of the strongest despite her young age and when the Decimation of the Mutant Race happened she remained one of the 198 mutants with their abilities.
Molly’s relationships are based on who she spends time with and she had arguably the best relationship with her parents being the youngest. She often misses them and one of the easiest ways to anger or sadden her is to point out how cruel they were to their enemies. Most of the others treat her as a surrogate sibling and she does the same.
In Battle of the Atom she has resurfaced from an alternate future as one of the X-Men, who as a child she admired but did not join because she saw the other Runaways as family and doesn’t like to be separated from them.
Karolina Dean (Lucy In The Sky):
Born to exiled Majesdanian aliens Frank and Leslie Dean, Karolina is a vegan and protestor. Early in the series her heritage as an alien and circumstances left her suicidal, but she overcame it later in the series and regained her free-spirited nature. At times, however, she feels as an outcast being the group’s only alien and lesbian.
As a Majesdanian she absorbs solar energy and radiates it as a rainbow colors, with her main weakness being a special metal that inhibits her abilities and that when night falls she has a limited amount of energy stored to use. After visiting her home world before its destruction she became adept at using her abilities, allowing her to fly, use lasers, force-fields, and concussive blasts. Her blood is toxic to vampires as well.
Karolina has generally good relationships with all of the Runaways and is an open lesbian with a crush on Nico that has persisted even upon her marriage with Xavin, although she loves her just the same. There have been moments of where their relationships have been strained, such as Xavin’s identity.
When the Majesdanian survivors came looking for her, she was willing to go in order to appease them and prevent a fight between her friends and her people, but Xavin took her place and left her grieving. Later on she has begun dating bi-sexual Julie Powers.
The child of famed Skrull Prince De’zean, Xavier is a Super Skrull who hoped to end the war between his outpost and the Majesdanians by claiming Karolina’s hand in marriage. It was clear that Karolina’s parents intended for him to die in the war before this could come to pass but she survived. Xavier at first defaulted to a male form however switched to a female form in order to please Karolina, but in general he/she has a bit of a gender identity crisis.
He has the powers of the Fantastic Four but his limited training with them has at times left him unable to use them to their full potential. He can use more than one at a time, but it rarely occurs due to his lack of training once more.
His attitude is somewhat warlike but he detests the notion of war, having lived his entire life in one. He clashes often with the others due to his different upbringing, questioning Nico’s authority and demeaning Victor as his race sees robots as less than equals, but later on it improves as he /she works to understand what it means to be human.
Xavin has left the Earth in Karolina’s place and hasn’t been seen since, potentially being killed as it has been made apparent that Majesdanians have a hatred of Skrulls.
Victor Manchas (Victorious):
A Cyborg created by Ultron using the genetic material of Marianella Mancha, who could not have children due to being used as a Drug Mule. Like the original Runaways his father is a villain, but he had a decent relationship with his mother, who Ultron killed in front of him. He is the brother of Vision and Hank Pym is his grandfather.
Victor’s body is filled with nanites that will eventually convert his body into that of a human’s, rendering him undetectable by metal detectors while retaining his abilities. He primarily uses electromagnetism in combat but also possesses some level of superhuman strength, incredible speed, a powerful jumping ability, and an automated self-repair function. He is also the only one outside of Chase who can pilot the Leapfrog. Because his future counterpart was designed to infiltrate the Avengers in adulthood and kill every hero, he is knowledgeable about heroes in general and has a fanboyish attitude towards them.
While he was originally under watch by the others he proved himself a loyal member of the team and begun a relationship with Nico after Gert’s death. Once the team was sent to 1907 during the last arc of the second volume he then fell in love with Lillie and she with him. However, she refused to join them in the future, leaving them both heartbroken and with regrets.
Klara Prast (Red Rose):
Klara Prast is a time-displaced mutant from 1907 the team encounters during their stay in that time period. She was sold off to be married to a traveler heading to America after her mother discovered her ability and called her unholy. He often abused her, which Karolina witnessed and later confronted her on her being the one who helped them with some trouble earlier in the arc.
When she witnessed Karolina and Xavin in female form kissing she left feeling it was something she couldn’t tolerate due to her Christian upbringing. This led Molly chastising her and leaving her behind. As the group was preparing to leave the past she appeared before them, beaten even worse, and was taken with them into the future.
Klara can manipulate plants in general by simply asking them to do what she wants but likes roses as she can hear them speak. Her powers are somewhat uncontrollable when she is distressed or panicked, such as when she saw Old Lace killed and entombed the team in their house within out of control vines and nearly killing Nico.
Klara is closest to Molly, as they are around the same age and she helps her adapt to the time period. However, because of the time period she comes from and her religion, she sees Karolina and Xavin’s relationship as something abominable due to race and gender. She has tried to get better about it and the change in the time period has made her much happier than living in her own time period.
What I like about this series:
Cover Art: Let’s be clear, in the first and second volumes especially, the covers are goddamn beautiful.
Plot: The plot goes from clearing their names and turning over their parents for murder to saving the world and then keeping their city safe, all while remaining on the run from the authorities and most other heroes.
Character Development: The characters grow as the story continues, maturing slowly as they struggle to not be like their parents. Even though there are moments when they seem just like them.
Relationships: The relationships are flawed, much like real life relationships, but they struggle and love. These relationships evolve over time and are realistic.
Concept: The idea of villains’ children becoming heroes (sort of) is one that isn’t commonly explored, but while they admit their parents were bad people they still hold some affection to them and their memories. Most of them anyway. The kids distrust authority like most teens but take things into their own hands and have slowly come into positions they are comfortable with.
What I dislike about this series:
Volume Three: In general Volume three has been my least favorite due to the weak plot with the exception of the Xavin/Karolina story and the fluctuating artwork. The Rock Zombie arc was just ridiculous and the Homecoming arc was flat out confusing and ended at the worst point, only to be skipped over as the characters were transferred to guest roles in other series.