Review by Ian Keogh
Anyone who loves the original Runaways cast should be warned up front that Marvel have taken the name, but instead of re-booting the strip, Noelle Stevenson’s plot unites another bunch of Marvel’s teen superheroes. Only Molly Hayes from the original team features in the school class at Von Doom Institute for Gifted Youngsters, the alternate reality part of the changes brought about by Secret Wars. The premise is that the misfits from the detention class must unite in order to pass their year end test, otherwise they flunk out of school. Or at least that’s what they think. The truth is actually far worse.
Joining Molly are Amadeus Cho, Cloak, Dagger, Delphyne, Jubilee, Pixie, and Skaar, or at least versions of them, while Stevenson’s approach is primarily a combination of Deadly Class with an injection of standard manga school sass. The runaways aspect arises when the students discover the truth of what’s happening, and go on a tour of some other areas forming Battleworld. It’s the best of the four Runaways chapters presented, a few laughs and some bonding away from the school. The absolute best aspect, however, is Valeria Richards running the school, switching from a tyrant beyond her years to the joy of losing a tooth. Valeria is a character well defined by artist Sandford Greene. He has a very nice loose style about his figures, which gives the cast personalities, but his work is undermined by the unimaginative shades of mud colouring applied by John Rauch.
The lead feature, however, isn’t the star attraction, which is the unheralded selection of short stories about the romantic lives of Marvel’s superheroes by creators usually associated with more offbeat and personal projects. Michel Fiffe presents Karen Page’s suspicions about Daredevil’s infidelity, Felipe Smith teams the Robbie Reyes Ghost Rider with the Kamala Khan Ms Marvel, and Marguerite Bennett sends Squirrel Girl on a date with Thor. They’re all good, and do what’s intended. The best of these shorts, though, is Jeremy Whitley and Gurihiru’s charming tale about the self-doubts Misty Knight and Iron Fist are both having about their relationship. It pulls off the neat trick of being hardly removed from the traditional type of story found in romance comics, while simultaneously being decidedly modern via the attitudes. The runt of the litter is Katie Cook’s reworking of Marvel’s superheroes as insects, intended as charming, but twee and hollow, although the cartooning is nice.
When the bonus material outshines the main production it’s testament to problems. This incarnation of Runaways has a few sparks, although it’s extremely predictable in places, but it’s not anything likely to be placed on the shelf for a second reading.