Runaways # 11
Gert goes to a local farmers market and realizes just how much more 'her' her surroundings have become leading her to make some big changes. Nico and Karolina talk about some lost loves, both recent and not-so-recent. Karolina admits she has been neglecting Julie Powers which, perhaps, made their recent breakup inevitable. Meanwhile, Doombot offers Victor an upgraded robot body he isn't quite happy with, despite how 'bomb-dot-com robot bananas' it is. Finally, the crew and the issue takes an epilogue-segue to check-in with Klara, a recruit from Joss Whedon's run on the title. The team attempts to rescue Klara from her 'my two dads' situation; a rescue she steadfastly refuses. They leave Klara to her suburban domestic fate of daily gardening and a room of her own.
It took a while for me to warm-up to Rainbow Rowell’s tenure on the Runaways. It was probably around issue 7 when the book finally hit its stride for me. This installment continues that upward trajectory with an issue that deftly balances several story threads effectively and economically, ending with a somewhat surprising, but very welcome, development at the end.
Nico and Karolina get the least panel time in the issue. Both share a nice bonding moment comparing past relationships while Nico provides some facial glam session support. Nico’s quick context-setting of her past affair with Alex Wilder is a welcome nod to the history of these characters. While the scene was short, and I would have liked to hear more about how Karolina lost Xavin, the shortness of the scene was probably a good choice on Rowell’s part as having it go on longer might have caused some drag on the rest of the issue.
Gert and Victor get the bulk of the character development in the issue, with both being confronted with situations that challenge their preconceptions about their identities and their bodies.
Doombot’s present of a jacked-up battle-ready robot body to Victor makes him deeply uncomfortable; stirring up emotions related to his parentage and his recent experience with the Visions. While the specific plot driver of Victor’s reaction to this new body felt a bit contrived, his discomfort with someone else making choices about his body and how that body will be presented to the world is one that felt genuine and earned.
Perhaps my favorite story beat in the issue is Gert’s tour through the local Farmer’s Market. It’s a fantastic sequence that serves to move forward and resolve some of the simmering issues with the character that’s been there for a while, even perhaps all the way back to BkV’s tenure with these characters. Gert’s encounter with a sea of purple heads stirs up some questions, or at least I’m reading these questions in for her. What happens when the world actually starts looking like the way you would want it to? What happens when rebellion starts to feel irrelevant because everyone already seems to agree with you? Gert answers the question in the best way possible, as far as I’m concerned: with a make-over. She realizes she’s won and that maybe it’s time to give her hair a break from chemical treatments and her wardrobe a more well-coordinated outfit; one that symbolizes her willingness to at least try to move on from the things that used to define her. Gert’s instinctual rebellion against social standards and looks has always been both a welcome and irritating aspect of the character. Rowell’s choice for her to ‘grow up’ here is a direction that I very much welcome.
The epilogue/flashback with Klara near the end of the issue was a nice touch. It’s always a joy to see when creators acknowledge more ‘deep-cuts’ of a book’s history like this. Presenting Klara in an extremely domestic context, with gay dads no less, is an inspired choice. That Klara acknowledges that she had to work to get over her preconceptions and prejudices about her parents renders her as a 3-dimensional character while nicely paralleling the main characters’ changing and developing a relationship to the concept of parents, ‘grown-ups’ and growing up themselves.
Kris Anka’s art may be an acquired taste for some, but it’s one I’ve already acquired and continue to enjoy immensely. Him being put on this book was an act of editorial genius as his particular style and aesthetic approach matches what this book should be spectacular. His talent for expressive faces is showcased in this installment, as well as his penchant for giving each character a nice sense of physicality and how they inhabit their spaces in each panel. Of course, we can’t end a Kris Anka review without talking about the FASHUN and styling. It’s one of the things that makes any Anka production such a joy and delight for me and one that is in full display here. All of the characters LOOK like they live in LA, circa 2018 and each individual character has their own specific style that does a lot of work to tell the story…none more so than in Gert’s (literal) showstopping makeover at the end of the issue. She looks great in these garments while telling the story that she’s ready to move on from the bulk of the teenage angst that’s been motivating her for a long time. Somehow I suspect Anka doesn’t get to unleash as much styling in a book that has to follow a specific style guide with superhero tights etc…thankfully that’s not really a concern with this series.
Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Matt Wilson’s color work in this installment. His choice of palettes enhance Anka’s linework tremendously, giving full life to each characters’ specific look. I also enjoyed the approach to coloring Doombot’s robot body for Victor, with the glowed up piping producing just the right visual register to convey Victor’s anxiety. The choice to have this particular day be ‘purple hair day’ at the Farmer’s market for Gert was also a fantastic way to play up anxiety and discomfort as she takes her walk, conveying a story beat far more elegantly and economically than a word caption or internal monologue would.
It's always a scary proposition for both creators and readers when an established and well-loved property like the Runaways gets handed over to a new set of hands. With this latest issue, Rowell and Anka prove that they are worthy of the honor to continue telling our Runaways' stories. Rowell shows that she's very much concerned about having these characters stories move forward with the themes she's chosen to explore so far: those oh so familiar anxieties we have about growing up beyond our teenage years as we navigate that tricky time where we maybe join the world more and fight it less. Putting Anka on art duties on this book has always seemed like a sensible and smart decision to me, particularly for this title, and this issue proves that again. His sense of style and concern for dressing and styling characters appropriately, and more importantly in a way that is very contemporary and grounded in the lived reality of actual people this age, lends itself well to this book and the kind of story Rowell wants to tell.
Runaways # 11 Gert Gets her Groove Back
Writing - 8.5/108.5/10
Storyline - 9/109/10
Art - 9/109/10
Color - 9/109/10
Cover Art - 10/1010/10
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