Writer: Rainbow Rowell
Artist: David Lafuente
Colors: Jim Campbell
Cover: Kris Anka
Published: September 12, 2018
Runaways has been a pretty forward facing book thus far. Well, let’s complicate that and say that the characters have been mostly moving forward into something new. Not necessarily in a better direction but in a new direction. This has been our top level concern in all of the issue discussions thus far, what are the new situations these characters are in, and is that progress, regression or stasis for that person. But at the end of issue #12 we got the biggest blast from past yet when Alex Wilder showed up. He is their past and can potentially drags these characters backwards. But in this consideration is a certain tension between readers who have a history reading the Runaways and those who don’t. If you’ve read them before, you know that Alex Wilder SUCKS! And if you haven’t, Rainbow Rowell gives you all the necessary context to understand why they all hate him. We’ll get to how she does that in second because it’s balanced really well in the context of this issue and gives you pause about whether their continued hate is justified (spoiler it is!). Regardless, this is a bold new direction for the Runaways and perhaps emblematic that as much as they have tried to leave behind their parents and their pasts, some stains are just harder to get rid of.
If you don’t know who Alex Wilder is you understand from the last panel of the previous issue that seeing him tears Nico and Karolina out of the bliss that they had found in that issue and towards something darker. Rowell doesn’t come out and explicitly cast him as anything, it is obvious they hate him, but it remains unfounded while the Runaways get their punch on. There’s significantly more action in this issue than there has been in most of the recent ones as they’re confronted with a giant three-headed dinosaur. This monster disrupts Chase, Karolina, and Nico’s opportunity to let him have it and the confrontation that ensues offers an interesting glimpse into the chemistry of the Runaways. Think back to the fight occurred when Doombot showed up and how Julie (Karolina’s former girlfriend) tried to rally them into a cohesive unit. She was wildly unsuccessful, but Alex isn’t. He gets Karolina, Chase, and Molly into action hitting the dino both high and low. He even manages to coax Nico into summoning the Staff of One and the helping her find the right spell to stop the monster. Each of them springs into action with reluctance, uttering something to the effect of ‘I’ll do it but not because you told me to.’ Despite what Alex did (or tried to do to them) there is still this familiarity with him back in the mix that hasn’t been replaced in the group dynamic and they maybe didn’t know they were missing.
After Nico finds the right spell to subdue the three-headed dinosaur the group can confront Alex in earnest about why he betrayed them. Back when all of their parents were alive, he gave them up to save himself and his parents from a group of biblical gods (the Gibborim) who were intent on ending the world in a Revelations type event. They were going to kill everyone on earth except for six people and Alex took steps to make sure he and his parents were in that small group. He elevated his own needs above those of his friends making it very hard for them to trust him again. Despite the difficulties that have come along with reforming the Runaways they haven’t been confronted with significant reasons to doubt the well-being of each others intentions. The baseline is that they all care for and about each other, but this can’t be applied to Alex. He’s from zero with them and maybe even farther than that considering that Alex’s arrival is followed by the reemergence of the Gibborm. These are the offspring of the monsters who threatened, then worked with, then were diminished when the Runways’ parents died. In their reemergence they demand that the pact they had made with the Runaways’ parents (a yearly blood sacrifice in order to prevent a humanity destroying apocalypse) be reinstated. It’s kind of a very sad moment for the Runaways and goes back to the idea of forward progression we mentioned at the top. There’s no specific thing the Runaways have been moving towards, but they been moving away from the past and the legacy of their parents. The arrival of Alex and the Gibborim brings those memories into harsh relief and forces (or will force) them to consider what memories or what bits of the past they were moving away from and how they must go about that. The stakes in the first twelve issues were small and personal, concerning people we know and care about, and how those personal issues will be balanced with the fate of the world is going to an interesting problem for our favorite teens and Rainbow Rowell going forward.
There was a change up in the art team for this issue with David Lafuente and Jim Campbell taking over on art and colors respectively. It’s definitely a big change for book that has benefitted so much for the simple but very elegant and expressive art of Kris Anka and Matt Wilson. The art has a bit more of an ‘anime-esqe’ vibe to it. There are a lot of close up shots of one or two characters in very expressive poses or with big facial expressions. These are contrasted by more farther away shots were a lot of each character’s detail is flattened and lost. Not necessarily for the worst, but there is a lot less subtlety in the art of this issue. You know directly how each character is feeling because of their clenched teeth and the sweet beading on the forehead. The art is a little more impersonal and focused around big feelings, which is okay in this context because we have a good sense of who these characters are, but a little something is lost from each character. It works well for the Gibborim designs who are huge and blocky and can be a little more impersonal because they are the ‘villains.’ It’s an interesting aesthetic shift for this book, but doesn’t compliment the storytelling in the same way as Anka and Wilson’s art.
(Subjective) Score out of 10: 6