RUNAWAYS #2 by Rainbow Rowell, Kris Anka, and Matthew Wilson
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
RUNAWAYS #2 shines in its characterization. Gertrude Yorkes, Nico Minoru, and Chase Stein all leap off the page as they explore the events of the last several years. However, the plot suffers for the repetitive, summary feel of the entire issue.
83 %
Great Characters, Slow Plot
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Over the years, Marvel’s RUNAWAYS team has been through a lot. After escaping their supervillain parents, they’ve run the gamut of superhero plots from time travel to alien invasion to vampire love triangles. However, through it all, they’ve stayed true to each other. Now, writer Rainbow Rowell and artist Kris Anka take a look at these young superheroes years after their greatest triumphs and failures. After Murder World, after A-FORCE, after AVENGERS A.I., the Runaways have fallen apart. In RUNAWAYS #2, the second issue of the recent reboot, the kids have fled the nest.

Gertrude Yorkes has returned to the scene. After Chase Stein traveled back in time to rescue her dying body, Nico Minoru magicked up a complicated set of healing enchantments. The beloved, sarcastic Gert is back with much applause. However, no fireworks go off at her return. No surprise party. Only silence and disappointment. Because Gert looks around the Hostel, the Runaways former base of operations, and sees nothing but dust and shadows. Molly, Karolina, Klara, Xavin, and Victor are nowhere to be seen. After a briefing covering the past two years and a reuniting with her pet dinosaur Old Lace, Gert convinces Nico and Chase that it’s time to bring the band back together. And with mysterious, glowing-eyed cats following the young Molly Hayes, their intervention couldn’t come at a better time.

Playing Catch Up

Runaways #2
Image courtesy of Marvel Comics

Approaching RUNAWAYS #1, I had this feeling that it would be a slow start. When Chase arrived with Gert’s dead body, I figured that the flow of the story would begin and end around her revival. Despite the slower pace of the first issue, Rainbow Rowell managed to craft a tense magical surgery. Gert’s life hung on the line, and my attention hung on every detail. RUNAWAYS #2, however, had no tension. At the open, when Gert wakes up and chastises Chase for messing with the time stream, there are glimpses of the possibility of conflict, but it never truly comes around.

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For the most part, not much actually happens in RUNAWAYS #2. The entire issue plays catch up. Every event after Gert’s death is briefly recounted, and for longtime fans, this issue feels kind of boring. RUNAWAYS is the series that got me into comic books in the first place. I remember all of their greatest struggles, especially the ones mentioned in this issue. While this is necessary information, it was told in a way that felt repetitive.

We constantly focus on Chase, Nico, and Gert within the Hostel, meaning that we only witness their dialogue. I would have loved to see Kris Anka adapt some fan favorite scenes into his own art style, as that would have given a new voice to events. Nothing remotely new comes into the plot until the final three pages of the comic. However, the plot isn’t necessarily bad. The characters are all well written and have their own voice, but I felt a little disappointed because I had lived this all before. New readers may benefit from this highlight reel, but long-time fans may not enjoy the recap.

The Life in the Character

Where Rowell truly shines in RUNAWAYS #2 is in her portrayal of the characters. Gertrude Yorkes has been dead and gone for a lot of years, which is a damn shame because she was one of the most interesting characters of the original series. Her quick wit and unabashed cynicism felt so different from other superhero characters. Even without powers, she had a beloved spot on the team. When she died, RUNAWAYS lost a lot of life. I still enjoy the later issues, but without Gertrude, they didn’t have the same energy.

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Now, Gertrude is back, and her voice carries through completely. Her characterization alone gives this issue value. While the plot is repetitive, the dialogue is far from it. As Gertrude questions Chase and Nico about recent events, we see her trying to grapple with her family disbanding. Nico tries to baby Gertrude, but Gert will have none of that. She even bitingly accuses the pair of “losing” the others. Rainbow Rowell not only brings this character physically back to life, but also her mind, body, and soul.

Similarly, Nico and Chase have a chance to shine in this plot as well. It is brilliant to see these characters dealing with recent years. Arcade kidnapped and thrust them into Murder World, forcing them to battle for their lives. Nico joined A-Force, only to face even worse threats. Victor Mancha died during AVENGERS A.I., and no one can tell these two how. As they tell stories of their lives without Gert, the tone of the issue becomes more and more solemn as they deal with the unfathomable tragedies they faced. Rowell handles this with a lot of grace, and it is clear that these problems will arise in later issues.

Every Sketchy Line

Runaways #2
Image courtesy of Marvel Comics

Kris Anka’s artwork on the series has me excited for the future. I mentioned earlier how I would have enjoyed seeing Anka’s portrayal of some of the Runaways biggest events, and I truly meant it. Anka and colorist Matthew Wilson do a fantastic job in RUNAWAYS #2. What I appreciate most is the similar aesthetic to the original series. Gertrude, Chase, and Nico feel like they stepped straight from Adrian Alphona’s debut work on the series. However, it doesn’t come across like an exact copy. Anka’s art feels more like an evolution.

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Anka’s style is far more mature, reflecting the time that has passed. Anka manages to strike a balance between the old stories and his own style. He doesn’t stray from prior design elements, simply adapting them into his own. Anka’s line work is incredibly clean, and his characters simply come off the page more adult-like. Alphona was never afraid to stylize characters’ expressions to exaggerate emotion. He drew these characters as kids, meaning that energy needed to leap off the page. However, Anka stays true to human anatomy, minimizing stylization. Anka’s RUNAWAYS have lived through so much more, and Anka reflects that in his art.

What truly seals the deal, though, is Wilson’s color job, which showcases a lot of bright colors on the characters and muted tones on everything else. He manages to make the characters pop off the page. In a way, this works against the serious tones of Anka’s style, but it tends to balance the design elements. Yes, these children have been through some terrible stuff, but they are still children. While Nico and Chase wear a lot of beiges, Gert and Molly Hayes don bright garish colors to show that their essential innocence still exists.

Final Thoughts — RUNAWAYS #2

RUNAWAYS #2 is a strong comic book in everything but the plot. In fact, I feel like this entire issue is more of a character study. Who is Gertrude Yorkes? How have Chase and Nico handled their tragedies? These are the questions this issue seeks to answer. With cunning illusions to future storylines, there is a ton of potential for Rainbow Rowell’s new take on my favorite young superheroes. And for fans newly exploring the RUNAWAYS, this might be the perfect issue for you. However, for those that have stuck with this team from the beginning, stay with them. Characterization is key here, and certain secrets are revealed that make this a necessary story.

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