runaways #9
RUNAWAYS #9 by Rainbow Rowell, Kris Anka, and Matthew Wilson
While the plot suffers from a somewhat slow pace and a bit of a confusing narrative arc, RUNAWAYS #9 stands apart from previous issues with its nearly perfect and fun characterization.
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Fantastic Characterization
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Despite their grand array of superpowers, the members of the Runaways are not exactly prime Avengers material. First and foremost, Earth’s mightiest heroes tends to limit their membership to adults. On the other end of the spectrum, though, the Runaways don’t actually see themselves as superheroes. While they have fought crime in the past, most of their storylines have dealt with their attempts at building their own family. Only two members of the team have actually joined the illustrious ranks of the Avengers. Nico Minoru joined A-Force, while Victor became a founding member of Avengers A.I. Now, Victor’s time on the team comes full circle in RUNAWAYS #9. Former teammate Doombot has arrived to fix his “best and only friend’s” body. Meanwhile, Molly must grapple with the Cupcake of Immortality she received from a school friend.

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Doombots and Cupcakes

RUNAWAYS #9, Pages 1-2. Courtesy of Marvel Comics

By far the strongest aspect of RUNAWAYS #9 is its characterization. The story is filled to the brim with humor of all kinds, but it still never sacrifices a look at the team members. What I have enjoyed so much about Rowell’s run so far is the focus on this unit as a dysfunctional family. While individual characters do break out in certain issues, it always comes straight back to the group dynamics. This stays consistent in this issue, with one of the major focal points being the group going to see a movie together. In all actuality, it shouldn’t work. After all, this feels rather mundane for a superhero story. But for this particular team, it showcases their wholly unique and powerful bond.

With that said, the story also delves deeper into four main Runaways in this issue. Victor, Chase, Karolina, and Molly all take center stage here. While the plot can get a bit muddled from this four way POV, I felt that it really informs the characterization. Chase’s drive to rebuild Victor’s body compared to Victor’s lack of desire to be fixed feels really fun and interesting. Meanwhile, Karolina and Molly’s emotional struggles act as the dramatic centerpoint for RUNAWAYS #9. While I feel that Karolina’s relationship troubles aren’t explored nearly enough here, I am happy for the amount we get to dive into these four character’s heads throughout the issue.

The Golden Years

Runaways #9
RUNAWAYS #9, Page 3. Image courtesy of Marvel Comics

As I mentioned, the plot of RUNAWAYS #9 does get a bit muddled from this four way split in attention. While this does great work showcasing their interiority, their plot points don’t nearly get explored enough. Karolina’s relationship struggles seem to be the primary focus here, but they never truly get resolved. The same goes for both Molly’s inner debate about the merits of immortality. The storyline involving Victor’s body takes up the bulk of this issue’s pages, but it also has the least emotional power. This story feels like a series of interesting side-plots without a major through-line.

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With that said, I’m not at all criticizing the storytelling within each of these sections. As I said before, Rowell’s version of the RUNAWAYS shouldn’t work. It is a family narrative first, with very little superheroing. However, her narrative talent gives way to really heartfelt and character driven moments. My primary criticism is that each of these major elements should take place in their own issues. Right now, we get strung along on three separate storylines that have a lot of narrative strength, but we never get any resolution. Right now, I want just a bit more from these character arcs. I want to see where they are going. The storytelling in RUNAWAYS #9 is fantastic. The organization of plot, though, suffers.

The Modern, Abnormal Family

RUNAWAYS #9, Page 4. Image courtesy of Marvel Comics

The creative mind of Kristafer Anka again graces the pages of RUNAWAYS #9, and I have to say how much I enjoy this man’s work. I cannot overstate the thrilling expressiveness of his character art. The dramatic and emotional atmosphere of the story only works because of Anka’s focus on facial and gesture expression. These characters live and breathe under his pencils. I also have to mention that most of this issue’s humor relies so much on this element of Anka’s style. Many of the joke’s simply wouldn’t pan out. This also speaks to the creative team of Rowell and Anka. These two creatives know how to play to each other’s strengths, and that comes across clearly here.

The colorist for this issue is Matthew Wilson. I have much the same thoughts about Wilson as I do Anka. RUNAWAYS couldn’t work without him. Wilson’s understanding of color theory and contrast really does wonders for these pages. I especially enjoy the dichotomy between the Hostel and the outside world. All of the rooms of the Hostel have a very cool and dark color motif. Meanwhile, Wilson fills the outside world with lots of deep reds and warm colors. This speaks to this arc’s themes. Both Molly and Karolina question throughout the arc whether they want to retreat into the Hostel with their “family” or if they want to explore the outside world. Wilson’s colors reflect this perfectly.

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RUNAWAYS #9: Final Thoughts

RUNAWAYS #9 has plenty of fantastic ideas. The three main plot threads, on their own, have a ton of narrative potential. However, none have received any satisfying resolution as of yet, leading to an unfocused feeling. This of course stands opposed to the absolutely marvelous characterization that Rowell brings to the table, as well as the art from Kris Anka and Matt Wilson. Hopefully, future issues go a bit deeper into these divergent plot threads. Still, this is definitely a fun and interesting series that absolutely deserves your attention.

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