By Spencer Irwin
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
While almost none would admit it — and probably less are even aware of it — most teenagers crave stability. Being young is a time of terrifying uncertainty — not just the almost paralyzing possibilities of the future, but the more mundane uncertainties of crushes, changing bodies, and rapidly evolving places in society. Throw superpowers and evil parents into the mix, and it’s no wonder the Runaways have often felt so lost. In lives practically defined by constant change and uncertainty, the one constant they’ve always had is each other. How are they supposed to handle losing that?
That’s the question that has defined Rainbow Rowell and Kris Anka’s new volume of Runaways, but issue 4 especially dives into that uncertainty. As always, the only character comfortable with her life is Molly. While Molly could be happy just about anywhere, the happiness and stability she’s found with her grandmother has only rattled her friends further. Nico is still cursing the choices she’s made that have led the team to this point, wondering what she could have done differently. Victor is playing dead just to avoid making any decisions about his life at all. And Gert…poor Gert. Of course she’s still struggling with the new status quo after nearly dying and skipping ahead two years into her future. Of course she’s wary of Molly’s grandmother — the evil adults the Runaways routinely faced are still fresh in her mind in a way they aren’t for her friends. And despite all that, of course she needs the stability Molly’s grandmother is offering more than any other Runaway. The others have all had a chance at a Post-Runaway life, successful or not. Gert hasn’t.
In any other series Gert’s choice to stay with Molly and her grandmother would probably be a triumphant moment, but not in Runaways. It’s not just because this arc is inevitably leading to these kids being together again — to the realization that they will always be each other’s closest family, and at their best when together — it’s also because Molly’s grandmother is clearly up to something. She’s taking samples of Molly’s DNA, and sneaks some of Victor’s as well. It’s because her cats have been spying on the team since issue 1, and because it’s implied that she may have created/cloned Molly’s mutant parents. Whatever she’s up to, I don’t think Dr. Hayes is the stable presence the Runaways needs, and I’m terrified — but also excited — to see what will happen when these kids realize that.
The voices Rowell has crafted for her Runaways do wonders for the success of this issue and series, but Anka’s art is just as successful. He’s giving career-best work to Runaways, with a detailed focus on background and environment, character design and fashion, and facial expressions that tell million-word stories in one panel.
This splash page is full of the kind of delightful detail Anka brings to Runaways, but even the smallest panels contain the same kind of magic. Anka makes the world of this book feel real and immersive, and that kind of skill can’t be overpraised.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?