Review by Frank Plowright
Having concluded all his major plotlines in Live Fast, Brian K. Vaughan chose Joss Whedon to continue Runaways. They’d worked together on Buffy the Vampire Slayer comics, and share similar writing sensibilities, both strong on character driven drama. Were it not for the revised credits, you’d have difficulty knowing there’s been a change of writer, as the hardship of growing up independently remains the primary theme.
Whedon’s first ten pages are almost a textbook example of how to introduce a bunch of characters, their abilities and their personalities to a new audience. It’s done so well that you’d not notice the purpose as the pages turn. Beyond that, he really understands the power of a cliffhanger ending, and every single chapter ends with a humdinger. What’s better, his subsequent chapters don’t start with an easy cop-out.
Michael Ryan isn’t Adrian Alphona, and takes a more traditional superhero approach to the art, but it’s very good, packing in a large cast with the pages only rarely appearing cramped, and ensuring that cast are dynamically portrayed. As the story involves time travel Ryan needs to convey a whole new world, and he revels in it, so the underlying joyous spirit of the series is safe with him. As previously, given the visual effects defined for Karolina Dean, colourist Christina Strain is an important part of the artistic equation, and the sample page shows her work and Ryan’s combining well.
Dead End Kids never takes you where you might expect, and so much is so good. The parallels between present day characters and their 1907 counterparts is subtle, the use of members of the Pride casts a new light on them, and Whedon introduces several new characters who by the end of the book feel as if they’ve always been around. This is in addition to ensuring every existing member of the Runaways has a moment, sometimes several, in the spotlight, and a great sequence underlining how people from the 21st century would be seen by a devout child from the early 20th century.
Fun and lots of it, spliced with enough emotional turmoil to have you raging, Dead End Kids is great superhero drama. In fact, given Whedon’s patchy contributions to comics, unless you know better, it ranks as his best. He didn’t stick around, however, and the series continues with new creators in Dead Wrong. This is also found in volume three of Runaways: The Complete Collection.