This week, I review the first six issues of Rainbow Rowell and Kris Anka’s Runaways (now available on Marvel Unlimited) before talking about the lack of a “go to” comic book website.
Featured Comic Of the Week –
(Spoilers For These Issues Follow!)
Writer: Rainbow Rowell
Artist: Kris Anka
Where To Find: Runaways Vol. 1
Newly Available Complete Story Arcs in Marvel Unlimited: Yes!
The restoration of the Runaways property has been a tricky proposition since creators Brian K. Vaughn and Adrian Alphona wrapped up their 40+ issue run. The likes of nerd-god-king Joss Whedon have been given a crack at the teenagers with super-villain parents, but no one has quite recaptured the magic for well over a decade.
As such, you’d be easily forgiven for doubting Marvel’s announcement of YA writer Rainbow Rowell joining Star-Lord artist Kris Anka on a relaunch that just so happens to coincide with the launch of Runaways on Hulu.
Like a lot of the best of Marvel Legacy, though, Runaways is the real deal, and is going to surprise a lot of 2000’s Marvel fans. Rowell and Anka seem to truly get the cast of misfits, from Chase Stein’s earnest exuberance to Molly Hayes’ hilarious wide-eyed child’s point of view.
The thing that struck me the most about the opening of Runaways is how deliberately the series “superhero universe” comic norms. In six issues, the Runaways don’t fight any big ol’ bad guys, unless you count a misguided supergenius and pet cats. Likewise, Rowell and Anka open the series literally right on the heels of the Vaughn and Alphona comics, with modern day Chase Stein rescuing Gertrude from her death at the hands of Alex Wilder Sr.
The end result is a return of the classic Runaways lineup, but with all the trappings of time-passed and Gert in particular left with short-term Captain America complex.
It might sound like a small thing, but Rowell and Anka write teens that actually sound like kids, a skill that’s been too frequently absent in the halls of All-New All-Different Marvel (here’s looking at you, Champions). In the absence of madcap superheroics, the characters are the focus, and Rowell displays a deft hand and bringing all their insecurities and baggage to life.
All in all, it’s the most I’ve enjoyed a Runaways story since the Vaughn and Alphona era, and I’m excited to dive in to the remainder of the series. A strong recommendation for Runaways fans.
COMIC BOOK JOURNALISM
TREND: ARE THERE ANY CENTRAL COMIC BOOK WEBSITES?
Last week I talked briefly about my year freelancing for CBR.com, and the pros (actual payments!) and cons (toxic readership environment!) of writing for a site that size. Since that time, I’ve seen a number of social posts and commentary about the degradation of the once reputable Comic Book Resources brand. I maintain this gets mildly overstated (again, having put in some of the work, I know there’s some decent stuff being published over there), but all in all it’s hard to argue.
Similarly, I listened to an interview this week with Mark Richardson, longtime Pitchfork Editor-in-Chief, on the Celebration Rock podcast (great pod for music lovers). During the conversation, Richardson and host Steven Hyden lamented the loss of a central website in music culture. The days of building an audience that would come straight to your site and consume a majority of your content are in the distant past, fractured most notably by social media.
The same can certainly be said of comic book criticism and coverage, and it got me thinking about modern comic book conversation hubs. I’ve tried to identify a go-to focal point for comics coverage, and honestly, it’s been close to two years since I’ve had a site that I’d just pop into my browser and peruse (RIP Comics Alliance).
This isn’t to say there isn’t good writing about comics – far from it. I just tend to isolate writers and voices I want to read – frequently found via Twitter – rather than actual honest to goodness websites. I posted this on Patreon a while back but my go-to reads lately are anything from:
Oliver Sava (AV Club)
Abraham Riesman (Vulture)
David Harper (Off Panel podcast)
Batman’s Bookcase (easily my favorite review site today)
The MNT crew (Patreon exclusive comics newsletter)
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that I also frequently find good content on Multiversity, iO9, and Polygon.
I don’t necessarily wish it otherwise (the times they are a changin’), but I wonder how many comics fans have go-to sites these days, versus the fragmented social-led approach. I also question what a true center of the conversation would look like in 2018, as ad revenue and the demands of publishing holding companies intersect with any site able to scale up to a growing audience.
If you have a go-to read you love, let me hear about it in the comments!