WARNING: Mild spoilers for the first four episodes of Marvel’s The RUNAWAYS show, as well as the first volume of Brian K. Vaughan’s original comic!

Marvel’s RUNAWAYS show arrives this week on Hulu, adapting the classic Marvel comic for new and old fans alike. There is much excitement for the show, justified by the solid start of its first few episodes. Targeting teenage viewers while adding intrigue that older fans may enjoy, the Runaways are looking to become a household name once more. Will RUNAWAYS be able to stay on par with its Marvel Netflix rivals and counterparts? Only time will tell, but it’s aiming to stand out with its target audience through themes of loss and family, as well as its ability to resonate with viewers on a grander scale with its grounded themes. 

But, of course, as with every comic adaptation, there are going to be changes. The RUNAWAYS show keeps the themes of the comic intact, but there are some significant plot changes and storylines present. Some of them add new depth to certain characters, while others add new situations and mysteries that improve the story. All Marvel series have similar practices, and sometimes the line between source material and the adaptation can be very thin. The show succeeds in walking that line, but some older fans may take a while to get used to it. Change in media is par for the course, and shouldn’t hold too much of a negative effect on a fan’s critique if it’s executed well.

With that said, the show is solid, and that is due in part to its original comic. RUNAWAYS was a hit, and with its current continuation ongoing in Marvel comics, the show and its changes are a perfect reason to bring up why the comic must be remembered. Now is the time to take a look at what makes the comic shine, and what carries over from the pages onto the screen.  We’ll dive into the character development and relationships involved, and how they build on the lore and history. The RUNAWAYS show is striving to leave a lasting first impression on new fans, and lend a hand to its older ones.

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RUNAWAYS First Crashes on to the Scene

Courtesy of Marvel Comics

The original RUNAWAYS, written by Brian K. Vaughan, debuted in 2003. The comic gave us a story filled with superheroics and teen drama, with the intent of connecting to a new, younger audience. An all-teen cast dealing with the weight of the world caught readers young and old, especially with its originality. RUNAWAYS had a hard time staying afloat as part of Marvel’s Tsunami imprint, a line of young reader friendly comics that wasn’t quite successful. After the line’s failure, RUNAWAYS found new life as Vaughan fought for it to be revived, and it came back. Vaughan only stayed on for 18 issues, after which he gave the reigns of the comic over to Joss Whedon. From this sprang four volumes, plus a 2017 revival written by Rainbow Rowell and drawn by Kris Anka. 

The Runaways themselves are composed of fan-favorite characters — Alex Wilder, Nico Minoru, Karolina Dean, Molly Hayes, Chase Stein, and Gertrude Yorkes. As seen in the show, the Runaways are friends from Malibu, where their parents are villains in a crime ring called “The Pride.” This evil syndicate is trying to wipe out the planet for their evil masters the Gibborim, sacrificing lives and bringing despair. The young heroes must work together to uncover the secrets of their parents and stop their plans, all while learning about the powers and lineage that they themselves have. Along the way, they become closer to each other, building relationships.

A Life After Death

With the ever-fluctuating existence of the title, the RUNAWAYS characters have always been present in the Marvel universe. Nico has appeared in various titles, ranging from A-FORCE with the ranks of She-Hulk and Captain Marvel to AVENGERS ARENA, where she appeared alongside fellow Runaway Chase Stein. Molly appeared in a few X-Men and Avenger titles in passing, with her status as a mutant driving her popularity. Alex and Gertrude both died during the original series, and their sacrifices and actions had a ripple effect on the others. Karolina Dean, however, chose to stay out of the spotlight. No matter where they are, dead or alive, the Runaways have a spot in the Marvel universe for their talents.

Courtesy of Marvel Comics

The RUNAWAYS comic was an emotional and unpredictable tale, and it has a place in the hearts of many. Its impact still rings true, as seen with their new ongoing title and the Hulu show. The show holds on to the themes of growing up and conquering your demons, but there are key differences throughout. The series is based on the first volume of RUNAWAYS, with the rest of the Vaughan run hopefully appearing later. With the switch from the pages to screen, what sticks to the story’s values, and what doesn’t? The show not only gives us a new look at the heroes but also at someone unforgivable: their parents, the Pride. 

Meet the Cast of Marvel and Hulu’s RUNAWAYS at NYCC 2017

From the Panel to the Screen

Given the source material, the RUNAWAYS show, created by Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, is aimed at a younger audience. Throughout the first half of the show, the series takes a look at some of the problems younger viewers may experience, from the stress of overprotective and neglectful parents to the peer pressure and dangers of school. The backstory alters itself for the audience, and the first episode itself is an extended look at the events of the first issue of the comic: Alex’s life with his overbearing parents, instances of Nico’s parents being serious, and so on. However, different relationships and dynamics appear thanks to one new, vital, and crucial plot point that’s not in the comics.

The Runaways Show
Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Episode one of the RUNAWAYS shows the team as a group of fractured, emotionally distraught friends. This is all due to a plot point not seen in the comics, the death of Nico’s sister Amy Minoru, a new character. Details on the death and the character are scarce for now in the show, but she is integral to everyone present. The addition isn’t necessarily a terrible one, but it can throw off returning fans. This new detail allows the cast to grow more, showing new sides to characters that the comic didn’t.

Growing Pains for the RUNAWAYS Lore

Each member of the Runaways tries to cope in their own way, all feeling relatable to some extent. Watching Alex try to find friendship and return things to how they once were feels familiar, and Nico’s loss of a sibling hits close to home for others. This added element gives room for development for the teens, as well as their parents. As far as we know, the loss of Amy may have had something to do with their criminal background, and they all feel pain for it. It is odd to see them act anxious and guilty like this, given that they have had no problem sacrificing strangers and committing crimes with their group for years.

The show feels realistic with less theatrics, but this gives space for fleshed out detail in unlikely characters. The Pride parents are unforgivable in any iteration, but here they are given relatable characteristics to sympathize with. They no longer feel like your typical villains, and they now have a conscience. These conflicted characters help create an enticing show for a variety of audiences, alongside several other liberties.

Meet the Parents

One new change on the parents’ side is the decision to have Molly’s parents killed off, and having her be Gertrude’s adopted sister. This new piece of the story is out of nowhere, although it does add a new connection for the two to have. Due to obvious studio issues, Molly isn’t a mutant in this iteration, and the mystery of her parents and who they were is now left to the imagination of just what she may be. She has the same powers from the comic, but now her history and motivations have shifted significantly.

The Hayeses live on through the show, although only with their aloofness and love of rock living through Gertrude’s parents. This actually turns them into some of the funnier characters on the show, despite the dark secrets they carry. These new changes show the villains’ human side, making it tough for the viewer to completely despise them.

The RUNAWAYS Episode 1
Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

RUNAWAYS #2 Review: Sequence of Events

Sympathy for the Devils

A vital plot change shows off the new complexities of the Runaways’ parents: a sacrifice gone wrong. In the original series their ritual is successful, but in the RUNAWAYS show, their sacrifice survives due to a malfunction. With this new mystery, tensions rise within the Pride, and they start cracking under pressure as they seek solutions. Alex’s parents, Catherine and Geoffrey Wilder, struggle with investigating their son, all while dealing with their criminal history. Geoffrey, in particular, is coping with killing someone as a sacrifice, longing to put it in the past. He is also dealing with the issue of keeping his past crimes and life as a gangster away from him. Unlike the comic, the Wilders are steering clear of their life of crime, avoiding conflict until it is absolutely necessary. The new stakes are almost enough to make you feel for them, if you can accept their past.

The RUNAWAYS Show Makes Small Talk With the Enemy

The other parental pairings have large changes as well, some drastic, and others less glamorous. Karolina’s parents, Frank and Leslie Dean, keep their Hollywood personas present in the comics but appear to be much quirkier. Nico’s parents, unlike their comic counterparts, are wealthy and much more serious. They constantly butt heads with their daughter, and their corporate dealings and travel cause tension from a marital standpoint. Chase’s parents are also less abusive here than in the comic; they are still the means behind the technology the Pride has, but they have a less dominant standing.

Another layer to these changes is the affair that occurs between Nico’s father and Chase’s mother. The camaraderie in the Pride suffers due to this, along with other struggles such as the missing sacrifice. The dynamics between the parents create new tension and conflict, and for the most part, it works. It’s interesting for the show to add depth to a team of villains that are unforgivable, and from the first few episodes we’ve seen, there is more intrigue to come.

The Runaways Episode 4
Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

A Tale for Readers Young and Old

Adding these aspects to both the teens and parents gives the RUNAWAYS show more realism. This allows younger viewers to connect with different characters who seem more relatable with every situation they get into. Each member of the Runaways is going through some sort of phase, whether it’s dealing with loss or depression like Nico and Alex, peer pressure from classmates like Chase, or even simple growing pains like Gertrude and Molly; there is something for each person to connect with. The spirit of the original comic stays alive with this group and each change to their lore works. 

The Pride parents give prime performances in their interactions as well, working off the Runaways and the mysteries. Their plotlines and issues present more intrigue than the Runaways, and their familial motivations might resonate with older viewers. The various plot points that form with each interaction, from uncovering secrets of the Pride to the mystery of the failed ritual, create a strong show with promise. This is a comic adaptation that can take a terrifying foe and make them human, making the RUNAWAYS show strong. 

Give It a Shot!

RUNAWAYS: 10 Best Moments of The Pride’s Children

The Runaways show is off to an amazing start, and the ever-changing dynamics of the cast is key. There are major differences that separate it with the source material, but it keeps older readers on their toes. There is something for all audiences to enjoy, from the teen drama and parental strife to the superheroic action. The show also serves as a bridge for new readers to check out the tales and comics for the characters. Vaughan’s RUNAWAYS stands the test of time, and varying the material can provide a new level of context. Rowell and Anka’s revival series, carrying a similar spirit to the show, can also breathe new life into the lore. Time will tell if RUNAWAYS is a success, but no matter what, it’s trying with heart.

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