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Runaways Volume 1: Pride & Joy
Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Drawn by Adrian Alphona
Published by Marvel Comics; $7.99 USD

Runaways is the story of six teens who discover that their parents are super-villains, known collectively as The Pride. Alex, Karolina, Gert, Chase, Molly and Nico set out on a quest to discover the truth behind their parents' evil past, and end up discovering just as much about themselves, and by the end each one is sporting something that makes them “super”, with the exception of Alex.

The creators do a decent job of trying to represent the vastness of teen culture with the characters, but there are too many moments where they seem to be nothing but the stereotypes they’ve been categorized as.

There’s Gert, the political activist with the purple hair, the all-American girl, Karolina, complete with blonde hair, blue eyes, and pig tails, Chase, the dumb jock, always ready with a wise-crack, Molly, age eleven, making her the youngster of the group, and Nico, the resident goth-chick.

Then there’s Alex, who at first glance may seem to be the token black guy, but Vaughan manages to steer clear of all the nuances most writers seem to want to saddle black characters with and actually makes him the most likeable and identifiable character out of the bunch.

Along the way the teens also acquire a velociraptor, courtesy of Gert’s parents, who turn out to be time travelers. The animal feels oddly out of place for most of the book, almost as if it were a last minute add-on.

Chase discovers a few hi-tech gadgets inside his father's secret lab, including a pair of X-Ray goggles, while it seems Karolina is from an entirely different planet. There’s the inevitable mutant, the young Molly, which leaves Nico, who can summon a staff of immense power from inside of her own body.

Much like the raptor, the superpowers seem cobbled together, and the origins of those powers reads like uninspired fan fiction, and having a mutant on the team reeks of publicity stunt. As if no book set in the Marvel Universe could survive without a mutant or something or someone related to Spider-Man.

Taking a basic feeling most teen-agers have and turning it into a reality makes for an interesting concept, though not always a successful one. The plot constantly threatens to fall into the realm of cheesy, and the dialogue can be a tad over-the-top at certain points, and not just the teen slang, though that is probably the worst single thing about the whole collection. Sometimes it feels as if the dialogue for the teens is coming from Tiger Beat while the parents’ lines often feel stiff and mechanical.

The art is terrific, however, and even holds up well in this digest version. Every character feels distinct, yet there’s an overall style to the book that makes it flow, the one exception being the raptor, and that’s only in a few of the frames.

Overall the book doesn't live up to its potential, wasting a unique concept and bogging the story down with over-the-top dramatics. The attempts to diversify the teens are a worthy effort, but backfire by placing them into typical stereotypes. This might strike a chord with some younger readers, and for eight dollars may make a good present for one as well, but for anyone looking for the depth Vaughan has put into some of his other works, look elsewhere. Grade: 2.5/5

-- Logan Polk



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