Writer: Rainbow Rowell
Artist: Kris Anka
Colors: Matt Wilson
Cover: Kris Anka
Published: June 20, 2018
If you had to choose one age between twelve and eighteen and stay that age forever, which would you choose? Would you pick sixteen because at least you can drive and, although you’re quickly maturing, you still cling to a touch of childhood innocence. Although maybe eighteen is better because you can buy smokes (and drink in many countries) and adults perceive you more seriously, but not too serious. Or maybe you’ve though about this and you have a different better answer with reasoning that you’re willing to get behind. That’s all great, but issue #10 of Runaways asks us to not bother with that question and consider it’s flawed premise. If we could stay one age, or at least look one age, for the rest of our lives, what motivates that decision? Is it just looks, is it the way others perceive and treat you, or is it trying to hold onto some quickly diminishing shreds of innocence. There’s something to be said for looking young and feeling good about that, but mostly all three of those reasons or connected to the latter idea of holding onto innocence. There’s definitely an argument to be made that innocence is state reserved mostly for the privileged who uphold it and apply it to their children who apply it to their children and so on. Choosing to ignore the consequences of actions for some nebulous amount of time despite the argument that there is no ethical consumption under capitalism, and so Abigail’s thoughts about innocence could be pulled down that way. But this discussion of issue #10 of Runaways is not the place for that discussion (and I am not knowledgeable to make that argument here, but it should be acknowledged). Combined with wanting to look young is the desire to be perceived as young which explicitly affects how you are treated. If you look thirteen, people will treat you accordingly even if you know better. And if you do know better, doesn’t that burden of knowledge and experience age you more than any pimples or wrinkles ever will? This is the tension of the opening scenes of this issue where the Asgardian goddess Amora (Amora…Amoral, coincidence?) stumbles across Abigail.
This young girl playing in the park causes Amora to reflect on what she sees as the curse of being a god, which is the the accumulated burden of knowledge for those whose lives stretch on indeterminately. In this context childhood and its innocence end in a heartbeat as knowledge ages a god long before it shows physically. Amora, maybe out of spite or maybe a misplaced sense of compassion offers Abigail two chances (cupcakes) to stay thirteen forever, and one opportunity to undo her choice. Abigail, we know, ate one of the cupcakes and the other was unfortunately eaten by Julie at the end of the previous issue. The Runaways return to the hostel and find thirteen year old Julie in too big clothes crying about how Karolina doesn’t have time for her. There is some very dark comedy in this scene as Julie’s suffering a horrible shock, but it’s also difficult to take her seriously with the clothes and everything. Molly knows what happened and immediately breaks telling the gang everything. They are quickly one their way to Abigail’s house, and as they approach the door Nico pulls Gert aside. She ask Gert that if The Staff of One is necessary, will she do what is required to retrieve it. Nico is asking Gert to cut her as her adversarial relationship with her power continues. The Runaways make their way past Abigail’s parents and upstairs to confront her. Abigail becomes upset when she learns that Molly didn’t eat the cupcake and their ensuing fight causes Julie to break down, which sort of kicks off the action. The Runaways have proven they aren’t cohesive in attack and Abigail proves more than enough for them as she has spent the last fifty years learning three fighting styles, eight languages, and getting really good at video games. As she handles them Victor kinda figures out that the reversal mechanism they are looking for must be a small vial on Abigail’s desk. In a few quick movements and without much discussion Julie has and drinks the restoring potion. As Abigail sobs on the floor, her parents (who saw all this happen from the doorway) tell the Runaways to go. They leave, and the issue comes to a swift end on the next page with Julie confirming her break-up with Karolina but telling her that she’ll be her friend ‘forever.’
Runaways isn’t always a light book, but this was a particularly dark issue that plunged everyone into uncertainty. Molly and Karolina are without friends, Nico is in an awkward spot with Karolina and still has the staff thing, and Chase and Gert have to think about their future as well as how they are presenting maturity/adulthood to Molly. We’ll get back to this idea in a minute, but let’s go back for a second. In the first couple issues when the gang was getting back together we discussed what reuniting offered for each person, and spent a lot of time thinking about what it meant for Karolina and Molly. These two where in the most stable seeming situations, maybe it’s better that Molly left her weird grandma, but Karolina appeared to have been actively working on growing up. It wasn’t simple or pain free, but she was doing it. Was reuniting with friends a good decision or was there regression? It’s too earlier to answer that definitively, but she, Nico, Chase, and Gert (only partially because she is actually like fifteen) have engaged in this sort of mutual childhood fantasy. Putting aside the fact that Nico and Chase did go get jobs, they have all been willing to engage with the idea that they are too young for any of this too matter. They repeat a couple times in this issue that they are not a team, they refuse to take their powers seriously, be ready to defend themselves, and members aren’t particularly comfortable opening up to the group about personal struggles (Nico and Victor mainly). There is a resistance to certain aspects of personal and collective responsibility which is what Molly had been picking up on and why she entertained Abigail’s offer. This is the idea mentioned at the top, that the older ones bear some responsibility for this by presenting a negative image of adulthood to Molly. They idealized youth, but would any of them want to be in Abigail’s position? Forever thirteen, having to watch her parents and everyone around her grow old, looking like a child but ‘knowing too much and knowing better.’ Adulthood, aging, growing up, whatever you want to call it, it comes for everyone. But it ends as well, which is part of the beauty of being human, a beauty that Amora and Abigail missed. We only have a limited amount of time to become the person we want to be to, and leave this place better than we found it. There’s no use putting that responsibility off a that’s when (saw it in this arc) people get hurt, or get left behind.
Kris Anka and Matt Wilson’s art throughout the issue was spectacular (as always), but there were some moments where the body language and colors really completed the story telling. We mentioned the opening scene with Julie crying in the too big clothes, but the final page deserves a look in as well. Julie is breaking up with Karolina and in the final panel her words come from off screen leaving Karolina alone against a backdrop of red fading to black. She is left alone via the dialogue, but the way she hangs her head and the colors contrasting her light clothes hit on a more emotional level as she is set adrift. There are a couple instance of characters set against a black background for a single very intense panel that, and each one serves to dial you into the emotion of the scene in a really affecting way. Here’s to seeing what they do in the next couple of issues with the emotions that are sure to surface as this arc comes to an end.
(Subjective) Score out of 10: 8