April 17, 2010

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Runaways Volume 6

Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Illustrated by Adrian Alphona and Craig Yeung
Marvel

This particular trade may have the world's most deceptive cover. The Runaways are playing happily in a green field, oblivious of all their cares. The insides could not be more different.

We start in media res with our youngest member captured by an evil man with the power to turn others into stone. However, showing her own strength, bother literal and figurative, she frees herself--only to get grounded!

That's just a filler piece to the main event, which features the return of one of the Pride, who has designs on the children who killed him. Duping some online roleplayers in a completely believable manner, he forms a new Pride and sets out to destroy the old one from within. Just as things look bad, we have another surprise return. Rushing into the fray, the Runaways must stop our killer from making a sacrifice. But can they? Or will their youth and relatively inexperience lead to tragedy for all involved?

Each time I think Vaughan has put the kids through hell in this trade, it gets worse. He does an awesome job of the bait and switch, and all the character development we've seen over the series comes into play. It's what happens when, like Stan Lee in the old days, Peter David on Hulk, Robert Kirkman on Invincible, or even JMS on Amazing Spider-Man (for good or for ill) today, one writer gets to stay on a title longer than a trade paperback's worth of material. Ideas can flow and ebb as subplots blip to the surface and back down again. It makes for good stories, not just flashes in the pan, and I really wish DC and Marvel would pay more attention to that.

Now, that doesn't mean there aren't some problems. Vaughan gives a 1980s black man dialog more befitting a "dude" from the 1970s and shortcuts one plot line in order to get all the players in place. This is also a problem here and there with the kids's banter, which often sounds a bit too much like what an adult thinks teen banter is like. However, the fact that Vaughan gives us a "Gwen Stacy" moment in this book--young heroes dealing with the fact that, had they acted better, a death can be prevented--is comic book storytelling at its best.

At this point, the book gets mashed into mainline Marvel continuity, so I feel as though, even with more issues to do, that this is the swan song for this team. It sure was a good way to go out, and I can unhesitatingly recommend this series up to this point to any comics fan.