As the only one of Marvel’s “Tsunami” marketing exercise to make it out alive, Runaways has struggled for popularity at the best of times. Following creator Brian K. Vaughan’s departure, the future of the series was more uncertain than ever, and a 6-issue run by Joss Whedon combined the writer’s stratospheric name power with the usual delays associated with him.
Now, for whatever reason, Runaways returns not with #31 of Volume 2, but for #1 of Volume 3. Presumably the hope is that the constant critical buzz surrounding the series will translate to increasing popularity at the start of each subsequent volume. Moore is a writer ideally-placed to handle the characters, and while he might not have the current popularity of Whedon or Vaughan, there’s no denying that he’s a strong writer with the required ability and experience to keep the title gaining profile the old-fashioned way.
Moore’s story has the kids returning to LA and finding a new Pride base. The realities of being kids on the run are addressed, as Chase looks for employment while the rest of the gang heads out for a spot of retail therapy. Unfortunately, it’s all interrupted when aliens come looking for Karolina. The story plays well to the cast, and continues developing the themes that Runaways has been built on. Ramos’ artwork is well-suited for the youthful cast, and while he’s a polarising figure, it’s hard to argue with his energy – every panel is crammed full of action and expression.
Whedon and Ryan’s delays do appear to have caused some problems for the relaunch. It’s very hard to say for certain, but it feels almost as if Moore was writing this well before the conclusion to Whedon’s story was known – witness Klara’s apparent retroactive insertion into some panels, and the cover – though to be fair that may have been a spoiler prevention measure. If nothing else, her personality is far removed from the timid young girl we saw her introduced as, an alteration for which Moore and Ramos equally share the burden. Elsewhere, the revelation that Xavin’s default form is now “female” must have been entirely missed by Moore and Ramos, though it could be that it hadn’t actually been decided at the time of writing.
Despite the new team and new #1, Runaways still feels like the same comic it’s always been, and while the long-term effects of the creative change remain to be seen, it’s off to a promising start. Whether the story is likely to keep any new readers the numbering attracted is debatable, but certainly old readers will find themselves right at home with the new volume.