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Runaways #1

Title: Runaways #1
Writer Rainbow Rowell
Artist Kris Anka
Colorist Matthew Wilson
Published by Marvel Comics

The Runaways are back! Hulu is THIS close to launching the live-action adaptation, so Marvel is taking a popular Young Adult novelist and one of their best artists and getting the band of teenage heroes back together. And not a moment too soon.

About fifteen years ago, Brian K. Vaughan dropped jaws across the comic world with the original Runaways series: a group of teenagers find out their parents are a secret cabal of supervillains and team up to take them down. They were an instant hit, and teen witch Nico Minoru became a breakout star, going on to join mainstream superheroics on teams like the last two iterations of A-Force. But not all of the original teens made it out of the series. Gertrude, who preferred the name Arsenic, died in the arms of true love Chase. And this series starts out with him trying to fix that.

Most first issues of team books spend time introducing all the cast members; most first issues of new volumes spend time recapping the story thus far. Rainbow Rowell takes a very different approach: the only Runaways in this issue are Nico, Chase, and Gertrude. Nico is down on her luck, living in a crummy apartment and mourning the end of her last superhero adventures. When Chase shows up in a time machine with a dying Gert in his arms, Nico flies into action with her magic powers. But because her powers only let her cast a spell once ever, and because she’s done this for a few years, she can’t go to spells like, “Heal,” or “Stop bleeding and get up, okay?” So the tension of the issue comes from two friends trying to find creative ways to do the kind of surgery this girl needs.

No supervillains. No guest stars. No velociraptors or mutants or aliens or any of their other former teammates. And it’s absolutely perfect.

Rowell doesn’t waste time with a huge recap. You don’t ever need to have read a Runaways issue to get this. Nico’s powers are explained in the story when you need them to be, the dialogue reminds us that Gertrude was stabbed to death, Chase has a time machine, we don’t need more. It’s still nostalgic, and original series fans are going to eat it up. But if the series is just about sitting back and talking about how amazing the first volume was, it’s worthless. Instead, we get something new, built on a clear foundation but original, tense, smart. And Kris Anka’s art fits this tone seamlessly, keeping the readers interest up in an issue that’s largely two teenagers yelling to each other, in one room, about how to fix this enormous problem on the floor.

I’m on board. This is the most promising version of Runaways since the first issue, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

And I really want to get the velociraptor back on the team soon.

Matt Conner for Ultimate Comics