If you’re bored of superheroes, you’re bored of stories but perhaps Marvel’s latest offering, Runaways will snap you out of your ego trying to make you sound all cool and alternative, you little emo punks.
The series is based on the comics by Lost alum Brian K. Vaughan which asked “All kids think they’re parents are evil, but what if your parents really were evil supervillains?” and it’s a breath of fresh air after the stale mutant kids stories of the X-Men movies and Fox’s The Gifted… not to mention ABC’s unwatchable Inhumans.
The difference here is self-awareness. While Inhumans takes its hammy acting and cosplay-level costumes way too seriously, Runaways is always toying with tropes and your expectations. Punctuated by some slightly Whedon-esque dialogue, it might have enough teenage rites of passage metaphor (and swagger) to become the new Buffy the Vampire Slayer for a whole new generation.
It’s just a shame that the glut of other, inferior superhero shows might be its undoing.
Runaways also features shades of another TV series from one of Brian K. Vaughan’s fellow hip young comic book writer friends, Paul Dini. Tower Prep was, unfortunately, lost in the mists of cancellation before anyone watched it, but its short run was also always fun, featured non-stop high octane excitement and really bonkers, in a good way.
Incidentally, how the hell is Paul Dini sixty years of age? Where did my childhood go?
Back to my little Runaways, a-run-run-run-run Runaways. The show opens with a tattooed girl named Destiny arriving on a Greyhound bus in L.A. Almost immediately, she starts getting hassled by two latinos, Maybe near my old stomping ground of Los Feliz. A Church of Gibborim bus pulls up and two middle-aged women offer their help. The girl gets on the cult bus and that’s the last we see of her (bar one scene) until… well, we’ll come to that in a mo.
This street urchin isn’t one of the Runaways. The series in fact tells the tale of six very affluent kids; African-American nerd Alex Wilder, Nico Minoru – an Asian Wiccan who hides behind her goth make-up, Karolina Dean – a Valley girl and member of her mother’s Scientology-esque cult. Chase Stein is a sports jock but secretly a brilliant engineer, Gert Yorkes is a Latina riot grrrl and social justice warrior and her adopted sister, Molly Hernandez is the baby of the group.
The kids, all dead-ringers for their comic book counterparts, attend a prestige Los Angeles school but the six ex-friends are all mourning the loss of Nico’s sister Amy. Enter Alex who is intent on reunited the crew.
There’s not much action in the hugely quirky pilot episode and that’s because it’s setting out its stall. E01 is a very much an Avengers Assemble story. The clichés are rife before they are subverted; Chase’s father (an unrecognisable, middle-aged James Marsters – Spike from Buffy) is an abusive business behemoth, Chase stops his jock mates from raping Karolina at a frat party after she takes a pill (or does she?) and Molly discovers her super-strength while suffering from menstrual cramps.
Apart from that – the series is going to have a hell of a lot of Whedon-esque surprises up its sleeve and promises to be as crazy as it is exciting.
Runaways is defo made for millennials… and it totes works.
Episode one ends when the group finally assemble in Wilder’s parent’s mansion and, seeking alcohol, the kids wander down into a secret, star chamber. There, the Runaways witness all their parents, decked out in red hooded robes, sacificing the tattooed girl from the top of the episode.
There’s more going on here than human sacrifice. A lot more and everything is deliciously teased, perfectly telegraphed and beautifully delivered. Expect sci-fi shenanigans, aliens, magick and amongst heartwarming stories of friendship, loyalty and teenage confusion. Perhaps one of the characters is even a werewolf and has a band called Dingoes Ate My Baby.
Oh, and along the way, Molly discovers a tyranasaurus rex in her basement – talk about subverting expectations! It’s not exactly High Art, but the pilot has done its job of hooking me in to watch episode two.
I guess the ‘K’ in Brian K. Vaughan’s name stands for Kooky.
Marvel’s Runaways continues Tuesday nights on Hulu. Defo check it out.