By Spencer Irwin
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Runaways 12 focuses in on two different pairings, which both eventually blossom into romance. In both cases, though, those romances are born of a deep friendship, of a deep intimacy which has been developed throughout several volumes of adventures together. Rainbow Rowell, Kris Anka, and Matthew Wilson spend most of this issue digging deep into their intimacy in all its forms, be it emotional intimacy or physical.
In fact, those two kinds of intimacy not only manifest in a myriad of different ways, but are inextricably linked as well. Take Nico and Karolina at their fundraiser — Nico’s mere presence, even if she’s clear across the room, provides Karolina the comfort she needs to make it through a difficult evening.
That dedication to simply being there on Nico’s behalf, and Karolina’s realization of how much that means to her, eventually leads to their kiss (and many more, apparently). I do hope we get to eventually see Karolina’s presence helping Nico in the same way, though, because it looks like her powers are malfunctioning, and thus she’ll no doubt need all the support she can get sooner rather than later.
Emotional and physical intimacy go hand-in-hand with Victor and Gert as well. Throughout all their scenes in this issue Anka makes it a point to include both characters together in almost every single panel, breaking this rule only for quick reaction shots or serious monologues. Due to Victor’s status as an immobile head this kind of closeness is essentially required, but this kind isn’t.
Victor and Gert are close enough that Victor is able to open up and finally reveal his secret, the painful burden of Vin Vision’s death that he’s been carrying since his return, and Gert comforts him not only through words, through truly understanding him in a way maybe even he doesn’t, but through her presence, by being there, by being close enough to provide comfort and catharsis.
I love the effect Anka and Wilson employ in that third panel. Victor and Gert are surrounded by a bit of a barrier, cementing their closeness and allowing it to shield them from the rest of the world. The creative team employs this same effect later in the issue when Nico and Karolina are finally about to kiss as well; in both instances it’s when the two are at their closest, their most open and intimate, but while that moment for Karolina and Nico is the moment they finally admit their love, for Victor and Gert that moment comes later. It’s the intimacy they show here that allows them to eventually come to their romantic realization, because they’ve seen how good they are together, how good they are for each other, how close they truly are and how powerful that kind of intimacy can truly be.
Again, that kind of intimacy is born of years of friendship, as even Alex Wilder realizes. Though he’s betrayed and tried to kill the rest of the Runaways on more than one occasion, in his moment of need, where does he turn? To his old friends, of course. Those bonds are clearly powerful, but it should be interesting to see whether the two new intra-team romances strengthen or threaten those bonds as we go forward.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?
Ooh, I’m getting to talk a lot about kisses at the moment.
Though I have to say, I’m not sure what I think of Victor/Gert. Considering Gert has broken up with Chase because he is too old, it feels weird to then date Victor, who I always thought was Nico’s age and therefore only a year younger than Chase. I know it is complicated by Victor being a robot that doesn’t age. But regardless of his physical body, his emotional age is notably older than Gert. While no means scientific, that famous dating age formula would have Gert too young for Victor, I think.
That issue aside, the writing is great. It isn’t a relationship I would have thought about, but it really works. A surprise in the best way. And very interesting. Also interesting? Victor and Gert having a relationship was a key element of the Victorious future where Victor turns evil and kills the Avengers. Victorious has been an underlying part of Victor’s arc throughout this book. Not just his fears around Victorious after his actions in the Vision, but in the way history is returning to the circumstances that the original vision of the future showed but was thought to be averted when Gert was killed by Geoffry Wilder. And the fact that when he started up again, it looked like the Victorious Program was starting. Which could simple be a liberalisation of the idea that Victor, like the rest of the Runaways, has ‘bad genes’ he is trying to overcome. Or a darker possibility.
Also interesting? Gert’s new look. Not just her hair, but her fashion sense. She’s looking vaguely Steampunk. Which is similar both to the version of her that originally came back in time to warn about Victor AND her parents. Which is two very different possibilities. Especially with Gert using time travel and discussing her fascination with extinct creatures (aka, creatures from another time)
And then there is Nico and Karolina. Got to say, I love how well Anka replicates the art style originally used in the original issue that scene is from (though it would be better if it was coloured like the original scene).
Also, it is interesting to have Nico actually have a Big Damn Kiss with someone where it isn’t a big disaster. Though I guess that’s what Alex is there. Because Nico without messed up relationship drama isn’t Nico.
But it works so well. The choice to focus on how Nico boosts Karolina is a great choice, as the flashback, particularly how it is framed as Nico’s great shame, and previous issues already establishes that Nico has strong feelings for Karolina, even if she didn’t act on them two years ago because she wasn’t out yet. Meanwhile, in order to make sure the relationship is reciprocal, to make sure one character isn’t just a prop for the other character and that we have a real relationship, we focus on what Karolina gets out of it so that when Nico makes her choice, we understand exactly why Karolina is happy about it (same reason it is great that Gert is the one that kissed Victor).
And Anka’s art is amazing with the Big Damn Kisses. I especially love the Nico/Karolina kiss. The way he uses the panel at the bottom is clever. Not just a close up, which creates visual language that suggests intimacy. But the choice not to show anything except the eyes creates the implication that nothing has changed outside the panel except the eyes. Therefore, that small panel suggests a giant full page spread and we can intimately imagine the wide shot of the kiss where both are into it. A fantastic issue.
Also, I love the colours of the cover. The cover is one of my favourite of the year, and I currently have it as my tablet wallpaper. But it is even better having read the issue, because I now understand the colour choices much better. It is the colour of the bisexual flag, on the issue that establishes without a doubt that Nico is bi