By Spencer Irwin
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Our appearance and how we present ourselves to the world are vital parts of our personal identities, especially as teenagers. The way we look can be used to rebel or conform, to highlight and emphasize our strengths or conceal our flaws and insecurities. Sometimes our appearance perfectly reflects who we want to be, while at other times it just reminds us of everything we hate about ourselves. Our appearance can even have an affect on others, for better or for worse. All of these various facets of appearance and identity play vital, central roles in Rainbow Rowell and Kris Anka’s Runaways 11.
In fact, appearance is highlighted from the very first page, where Gert discovers a tattoo dedicated to her on Chase’s thigh that sends her fleeing the room. There’s got to be something unsettling about discovering a memorial to yourself permanently etched onto someone else’s body (although at least Gert was “dead” when Chase got it), but for Gert it also ends up being a reminder of all the time she’s lost, and how that’s seemingly robbed her of Chase as well.
Gert’s issues with appearance and identity continue to be the driving force of the issue.
Her purple hair has always been a rejection of the adult world and its cultural norms that Gert hates so much, but her style also serves to deflect attention from her weight and onto what she considers her best attributes: her personality and beliefs. Glamming up — even in clothes designed for her body type — would be “selling out,” but that’s exactly what she ends up doing by the end of the issue after realizing that her purple hair no longer makes a radical statement, but instead just makes her another face in the crowd. It’s hard to tell exactly how Gert feels about her makeover — does she feel like she’s giving in, or trying to rebel by not being a rebel? — but either way, it’s clear that her appearance is an intrinsic part of her identity, and thus, that she’s feeling more conflicted about who she is than ever before.
Victor, meanwhile, has to deal with having no control over his appearance. Doombot creates him a new body that’s more WMD than “normal kid,” and though Chase and Molly fawn over it, it practically gives Victor a nervous breakdown. Victor’s still reeling over his role in Vin Vision’s death; being a murderous monster is his greatest fear, and suddenly looking like a murderbot just feeds those fears. The “normal” body he wants — without vibranium or super powers — is like disarming a mercenary or throwing away an alcoholic’s booze, but it’s also a way for him to take control of his own image. If he looks safe and normal, maybe he finally will be.
Appearance also plays into Nico and Karolina’s increasingly more intimate relationship.
Nico applying Karolina’s make-up is an intimate act, one that requires trust. It symbolizes how close they’ve become, and creates circumstances where both women feel comfortable opening up and sharing deep secrets and feelings with each other.
Ultimately, all of the Runaways’ appearances say something important about them (even Molly is wearing a Ms. Marvel t-shirt in an issue where she’s especially envious of Victor’s powers), and Rowell and Anka use this fact to great emotional and narrative effect. They get these characters, inside and out.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?