The Alpha Review
By Andrew Uys
I’ve heard that trade paperbacks — a run of comic issues collected into a graphic novel — are all the rage today. But which ones are worth your time? This column aims to put the spotlight on the spectacular trades — at least according to this writer. And just for fun, we will start with the letter “A,” and each subsequent review will follow with the next letter of the alphabet. While you might object to my taste or my opinion, I hope that this column will help save you time and money when you are next buying a trade paperback, as well as effort in alphabetizing.
R is for Runaways Vol. 1: Pride and Joy
Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Art by Adrian Alphona
Marvel Comics, 2005
Remember being a teenager? Remember fighting with your parents, bucking authority, and hanging with your friends all day? How about in the Marvel Universe? Runaways starts with a group of teenagers discovering that their parents are a society of super-villains. With their world turned up side down, these kids — who barely know each other — have to band together to survive.
Collecting Runaways can be a little confusing because there have been numerous collections released. First, Runaways was released in smaller-sized digest format directed at the anime market. Then, regular-sized hardcovers collecting two or three of the digests were released, and now regular-sized hardcovers that collect individual digests are being released.
On top of that, in terms of issues, there have been three Runaways #1 released, as the series keeps getting relaunched. In issue form, volume one ran for 18 issues, all written by Vaughan with the majority of it drawn by Alphona; a second volume ran for 30 issues, the first 24 by Vaughan and Alphona and the last six by Joss Whedon and Michael Ryan; the third volume is currently ongoing and was relauched with Strangers in Paradise writer Terry Moore and Humberto Ramos on art. Sound confusing? It is. The plot itself is easy to follow though, and wonderfully done, but woe unto the reader that stumbles into this story midway through.
Brian K. Vaughan is one of the biggest names in comics now, and as he branches out into writing for LOST, his star is only going to keep rising. Yet, when I picked up the first volume, I had no idea who he was, and enjoyed the story purely on its own merits — and there are many. Vaughan always seems to have the best artists rendering his writing, and Runaways is no exception. Adrian Alphona has clean, yet charged pencil lines, and brings a sense of youth and action to the comic. He defined the characters for me, and the first seven volumes with him and Vaughan are fantastic reads — a treat both for the eyes and the mind. Alphona is credited as co-creating the Runaways, and he highlights the physical identity, nuanced facial expressions, and individual styles of the kids. You root for the characters in Runaways — their failures, crushing; their victories, inspiring.
The best part of Runaways, though it applies less to the first volume than later ones, is how carefully the book threads its way through the Marvel Universe. Truly a comic about the tribulations and insecurities of adolescence, the series does involve other Marvel characters, but only sparingly. A classic moment is when Captain America, Wolverine and the rest of the Avengers appear — and their depiction is seen through the eyes of rebellious teenagers. Even if you have no former experience with the Marvel Universe, Runaways works on as a stand-alone series, and you can still thoroughly enjoy this title.
One quick warning, though. Do not, under any circumstances, read the two Runaways/Young Avengers team-ups. These are stand-alone TPBs, taking place during the “Civil War” and the “Secret Invasion” crossovers. While the Young Avengers mini-series was awesome, and Runaways is brilliant, these two crossover trade paperbacks are so horrible that they have you wondering why you liked the original series to begin with.
Runaways Vol. 1: Pride and Joy is a great read — easily accessible for older fans who want a break from the doom and gloom in the Marvel Universe, and for younger readers who want a series that speaks more directly to them. Start with Pride and Joy, and you will discover a title that reads and feels like comic from the 60s — filled with fun and action — yet is definitely set in our world today