Writer: Rainbow Rowell
Artist: Kris Anka
Colors: Matt Wilson
Cover: Kris Anka
Published: February 7, 2018
Issue #6 is the final in this first arc of the rebooted Runaways, and maybe sees our six protagonists in a worse place than when this series started. That is not categorically true, remember in the first issue Nico was doing pretty bad and Chase had just returned from the future with his dying girlfriend. But for Karolina, Molly, Gert, and Victor it’s kind of up for debate about if they are or aren’t better off, and this issue doesn’t provide concrete answers. At the end of the previous issue the gang had just swooped in to save Molly and Gert from Molly’s misguided grandmother, but before that the issue begins with a short narration about Chase Stein. None of these opening reflections about a single character could fairly be described as negative until this one. The narrator has very few positive things to say about Chase, instead coming to the conclusion that while he may not have powers or necessarily add much to the group, the Runaways would be incomplete without him (which kind of mirrors the ending of this issue). As everyone stands facing down Grandma, Molly insists that they must not hurt her. Grandma isn’t defenseless though as she sends her army of red-eyed and telepathic cats to attack them. Normally a group of cats wouldn’t be a problem for the Runaways, but Molly’s insistence that no one hurt Grandma or her cats makes doing anything rather difficult. Grandma’s next trick is to command the cats to unleash a telepathic attack on everyone but Molly. (incapacitating them), while she tries to persuade her to stay. The page where Molly faces Grandma as the others writhe on the ground around her is absolutely wrenching. She’s is watching/feeling a third (and final) family member begins to slip away from her. She always knew that something was off with Grandma, that she had done something weird with her parents and that she expected some odd things from her, but trying to make Gert into someone or something else was too much. If Molly’s heart wasn’t already broken when she yelled at Grandma that Gert already is “the special-est” then the process must have been completed when Grandma reveals a clone of Molly’s dead mother. After a few stunned moments all Molly can do is ask if it’s time to leave, and jumps out the window with Gert without so much as a look back. On the lawn Molly and Gert embrace as Karolina subdues Grandma and the clone of Molly’s mother. The Runaways gather down in the yard and decide that they should probably call the Avengers to take care of Grandma despite Molly’s mild (and not particularly heart-felt) protestation. There’s no discussion of what comes next or what to do next, only the unanimous decision to go home.
Where home is or what constitutes home for the Runaways at this point is unclear, but they will be going their together. It’s probably not the best outcome for Karolina or Molly who are leaving “stable” situations for a much more variable one. Gert is still time displaced, and Victor (still without a body) is more at the mercy of his friends than actively making decisions (as was discussed in issue #4). But, as the narrator got at in the opening pages, there is nothing that can replace the six of them being together. Despite their wildly disparate personalities, shared experience has created unwavering acceptance for each other. They can’t kick Chase (or anyone else) out for maybe not being able to contribute as significantly as others, because there isn’t really anyone else to accept and love the rest of them. It wasn’t the oddity or villainous aspirations of Grandma that drove Molly away, but the desire to create something perfect instead of realizing that what was there was already perfect. Molly, and then Gert weren’t enough for Grandma, while Molly (not Molly the superhero or mutant, or really strong person) has always been enough for the other Runaways.
There’s a certain amount of starting over that will have to/might happen in the coming issues, but these first six issues offer ample evidence that Rainbow Rowell has strong understanding of each of these characters and knows what comes next for them both emotionally and in terms of narrative. A lot of that emotional work is also done with the excellent art from Kris Anka and Matt Wilson. It’s been mentioned multiple times in reviews of previous issues, but the emotions that play out across the faces of the characters is fantastic. Molly’s face in the panels where she tells Grandma that she has to leave, and when her and Gert are hugging in the front yard are maybe some their best work yet. The background of the panel is entirely black as the emotion in those moments is the only thing that matters, and you can just feel something breaking inside Molly. The final image of the six of them sitting together as the sun sets in the hills is a wonderful moment of reconnection and what this whole arc has been leading to. It is beautifully depicted, definitely earned, and promises that whatever they face next, they’ll do it together.
(Subjective) Score out of 10: 8