Marvel’s Runaways

The Runaways comics quickly became my all-time favourite series when I first read them about ten years ago. They offered a unique perspective on the idea of villainy and what it means to go against it when, within the context of the story, it quickly transpires that the ‘bad guys’ of the piece are actually the parents of the teenage main characters. Despite being old enough not to have lived with parents for some time at the point of reading I was happily surprised to find that the comics were not pandering to a younger audience, it could have be so easy for them to try and make a parallel with its younger readers – “You know how adults are mean? Well what if they were bad guys?!” – but instead what came about was a surprisingly adult, teenage drama about family and self discovery… admittedly it also had some witchcraft, mutants, and a dinosaur thrown in for good measure but then again, this is Marvel.

So, when it was announced that an adaptation was finally going to be created – something that has been talked about since 2008 – it is safe to say that I was a little excited. Due to this excitement I didn’t think I could cope with having to wait weekly for the show to be released so, as soon as all ten episodes of the first season had aired, I sat down and binged the entire thing in about three days.

I was not disappointed.

What I was treated to was a breath of fresh air in the over saturated market that Marvel (and other comic creators) has created. It is hard to check any streaming service or the listing of the local cinema without seeing some comic book property on the schedule.

This is the first year (in a long time) where I have actively avoided watching any ‘hero’ show, this is due to a couple things;

DC – These shows are admittedly very good but, in the effort to create a joint universe, it has become increasingly difficult to watch any of their properties as single entities. Whereas I should just be able to play a show and enjoy it, I found myself having to cross reference which show I wanted to watch against the release dates of other shows in order to work out which order they needed to be viewed just so that I could understand all of the references and view all of the crossovers that occurred within in a linear fashion.

Marvel – In all honesty I just found that I was no longer enjoying them. When Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (that was fun to type) started I was all for it, yet obvious plot lines and cheesy scenarios had me turning off mid-way through the last season. I didn’t even give Inhumans a chance based on how awful the trailer was.

So finding how refreshing Runaways turned out to be had me once again looking forward to taking part in the world that Marvel has created. One of the main reasons behind this is that the show is a new entity entirely. Instead of superhero origin story it is a teen drama that just happens to take place within the Marvel Universe. This is helped by the hiring of show runner Josh Schwartz, most famous for his shows The O.C, Chuck, and Gossip Girl. Despite the world within which the show is set being assaulted by aliens or Asgardian God’s every one to two years (depending on release schedule) the Runaways is its own little entity, the kids are focused on their own problems rather than that of some old super suited millionaire at the other end of the country. This is a massive plus for the show, not allowing itself to get bogged down with the details, something that unfortunately happened to Shield (I’m not wasting time typing it out properly) at some point around the release of Captain America: Winter Soldier.

Whats more, whilst somehow avoiding the baggage of the MCU, the show has remained incredibly faithful to the original comics, even down to the dinosaur. How it has managed to do this and not come off as overly cheesy was wonderful to discover. Where it did deviate from the source material was actually done for the better, despite their villainess role within the story the comic book version of the parents do not feature that much, more as background antagonists who are trying to end the world. In the show the roles of the parents has been expanded to help give context to their decisions, to show how these decisions have weighed upon them for decades, and to help explain the actions that some of the main teenage cast make in retaliation.

Yet with all of this going on we are still presented with a very good, well thought out teen drama. There is the usual cases of unrequited love, of crushes, and all that kind of stuff but here it is done to a fantastic degree, the hiring of Schwartz truly was a masterstroke in getting this created.

The cast chosen to play these hormonal teens are impeccably chosen, so much so that they look as if they have come straight from the pages of the comic. One of the things that drew me to the Runaways in the first place was the diversity of the main characters, and the show has not shied away from that. This representation MATTERS in todays day and age, it has always mattered but at least now it is finally getting the screen time it deserves. In addition this teen drama goes above and beyond, offering a wonderful representation for the LGBT community (one of the main actresses has come out as gay plus there is a plot within the show where main characters realise they are gay / bi) PLUS it smashes certain tropes to smithereens. When the white jock character vies for a heteronormative relationship with the typical beautiful blonde who does not share his feelings the character instantly backs off, realises his mistake and moves on, and in no way blames the other character for her lack of feelings. THIS IS HUGE! Whats more it is just casually glanced over – the character mentions it in passing as he gets ready for a ‘mission’ – in other shows this would have been a point of contention for YEARS. He would have pursued her relentlessly until she gave in, despite the fact that the character is gay. Yet here he sees where her affections lie and moves passed it, not wasting any more energy on an unreciprocated romantic relationship.

However, despite all of this, the show is not perfect. By expanding the role of the parents the show pulls some of the focus away from the kids, by doing this there were several occasions where unneeded events were included just as a way to fill out the run time. In one of the final few episodes the parents spend almost an entire episode arguing over who out of them needs to be chosen for a specific task – think the famous ‘I’m Spartacus’ scene only in reverse – only for the whole thing to end up being pointless by the end of the episode.

Something similar happened within the kids storylines too as it took almost three episodes for one of them to reveal an integral piece of information to the plot. Despite the insistence of another character (“I’m not leaving until you tell me everything”) they kept getting interrupted either by other individuals or their own emotions. In the example I just mentioned, after the character states that she is not leaving she gets up and runs away because the other character brought up a sad memory.

Also, in the name of teen drama, certain contentions between the characters are exaggerated to keep the OTP fans on the edge of their seats. The whole will they/won’t they thing is dragged beyond its limit and just comes across as frustrating. The best example is that after certain characters get together the driving force behind the relationship then turns to the other and says the immortal words “It was only a one time thing”. My eyes rolled so hard I had to rewind the show to watch a scene I had inadvertently missed.

As mentioned earlier certain episodes come across as simply there to fill time and this ends up effecting the plot quite substantially as certain motivations behind the entire show start to become off kilter. The plot sees the parents having spent years working towards this one goal, yet why they waited so long and put so must trust within it all working out across the vast timeframe does not come across well within the show. I do not remember having such annoyance with it in the comics so it is obviously not the fault of the source material. Again it feels as if it has been exaggerated just so that we can have more scenes of the kids being secretly angry and their secretly evil parents.

But in spite of these examples the show truly is brilliant and well deserved of your time. The cast are impeccable and wonderful in their roles. The story, despite having a few misses in some of the later episodes, is interesting enough to have kept me hooked until the very end, something that a ‘hero’ show has not been able to do for a very long time. And, based on the finale, the future is now open for expansion in terms of both plot and character development, something that I will happily watch now that a thirteen episode Season Two has been commissioned.

7/10

 

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