Starring: Virginia Garder, Ariela Barer, Gregg Sulkin, Allegra Acosta, Rhenzy Feliz, Lyrica Okano
Based on the comic: Runaways by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona
Review by Stephanie Cooke
Runaways is one of those comics that meant so much to me as I was coming back to the medium. It’s a comic that meant so much to so many others too for a number of different reasons. Brian K Vaughan does such a phenomenal job of creating accessible characters and worlds while invigorating them with an originality that we haven’t seen before. Which is why I feel like so many are drawn to his works, especially as newcomers to comic books.
I’m always hesitant when it comes to adaptations of things that I love. A-L-W-A-Y-S. I can’t help it. I’ve been burned so many times by an excitement that blinded me to the impending train wreck. I walked into my screening of Runaways with what I’ll call a “healthy pessimism” where I was HOPING to love it but prepared for the worst. I was luckily in a position where I got the opportunity to see the first and second episode of the series. My thoughts are condensed into one spoiler-free review here.
For those of you who aren’t in the know, Runaways is a story about a group of teenagers who were once great friends. As they got older, they drift apart until they decide to reunite for old times sake. That reunion leads them to Alex’s house where they discover that their parents are actually super villains. What would you do if you discovered that? Well, Runaways (at least within the comics) explores exactly this in amazing ways, and after seeing the first two episodes, I have no doubt that the show will be able to tackle it too.
The first episode dedicates itself to the story of the kids which is the primary focus of the source material and overall comic. We jump around from Alex, Nico, Karolina, Chase, Gert, and Molly as we get glimpses of their life as is— pre-discovering that their parents are actual evil (as opposed to all teenagers just thinking their parents are evil). Much of it is run of the mill stuff you’d see in any teen TV show. Until we start getting into stuff like Molly discovering that what she thought was menstrual cramps is really actually the onset of a superpower. The fantastical is mixed in really well with the mundane lives of teenagers. It helps bring up the overall believability of the show since they do such a great job of getting the part grounded in our reality right.
The parents, like the children, are given more fleshed out backstories— as I mentioned with Karolina’s parents. We definitely only get snippets of what they’re about and what they all do with the primary parental focus bring on what Leslie Dean is up to with her church (which presents as more of a cult to the rest of the world) and her relationship with her husband.
The second episode loses some of the momentum gained in the first. It basically tells us the same story but from a different angle. The parents are definitely intriguing characters as well. It warrants going through their lives a little bit. I was a little bit bummed out that the second episode didn’t give us more of the kids which I was way more intrigued by. That being said, I see why they did it and why they went that route. Ultimately I can concede that it was a good decision and likely the right decision to properly build up the remaining episodes for this season.
All of the kids are straight out of the comic— honestly, it’s INCREDIBLE what they’ve done with them. The three standouts specifically for nailing the look are Gert (Ariela Barer), Alex (Rhenzy Feliz), and Nico (Lyrica Okano) who again, I swear to god JUMPED straight out of the comic book. And while I don’t feel like Molly (Allegra Acosta) was spot on for me (mostly because she was older than I think I had pictured her being), I was on board with the actress portraying her almost immediately after she was given mere seconds of screen time. Changing her age to be in school with the others makes a lot more sense too – it brings her directly into their world as opposed to being isolated from it.
Runaways is the perfect infusion of the comics television with teen TV. The dialogue is great, and the kids look, feel, and act like you’d expect kids to while not turning into something hard for those no longer in the teen demographic to enjoy.
It’s an added bonus for me that this series isn’t bogged down with Marvel’s bigger picture continuity which at this point has gotten exhausting. Having a shared universe is amazing, and I can’t imagine the vision boards they have going on to make it all happen. It’s nice to have a Marvel TV series that isn’t affected by that in the long run. Bringing this to Hulu vs a traditional network was the right choice and with the first season being a great length. Capped at 13-episodes, it leaves room to tell the story that many of us are excited to see come to life. All without shoving in lots of filler that Marvel shows like Agents of SHIELD truly suffer from.
The success of these first two episodes also gives me a lot of hope in regards to the other Marvel teen series coming in 2018. Cloak & Dagger which focuses on two fan favourites that have been around for years. The production value in Runaways has been pretty impressive so far. I hope that carries over into Cloak & Dagger as well.
Must watch! Even if you aren’t a fan of the comics (or simply didn’t read them), I am positive that anyone can enjoy Runaways as a TV series. I watched the episodes with someone who had no prior experience with the comics at all. He wound up enjoying the heck out of the series.
Runaways is everything that I could’ve possibly wanted it to be so far. I can’t wait to check out more and see where this adaptation takes us.
Marvel’s Runaways airs Tuesday’s on Hulu (for US viewers) and airs Wednesday’s at 8pm EST on Showcase (for Canadian viewers).