“Dead-End Kids” (part 4)
Writer: Joss Whedon
Artist(s): Michael Ryan, Rick Ketcham (i), Christina Strain (c)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Four issues into Joss Whedon’s short tenure on Runaways (he’s only scheduled to write a six-issue arc), and it has become clear that I should have waited for the trade. The schedule has gotten so increasingly late, it is difficult to keep up with what is going on, even with the recap page at the beginning of the issue. It seems that publishing delays are often the fault of the artist, and while Michael Ryan’s art looks nice, it isn’t so ultra-detailed that it makes the slow pace seem necessary. And while Whedon is doing his best to imitate Brian K. Vaughan’s style of writing, the delays only highlight any inconsistencies in character.
But really, the delays are the biggest complaint I have about the book. Whedon is spinning an entertaining time-travel story, with the team stuck in the year 1907 and getting involved in a turf war between different groups of super-powered individuals (referred to as “wonders” in this era). Plenty of exciting events take place here, especially Victor’s team-up and possible romance with a charming character named Lillie the Spieler, who has the ability to fly when she hears music. Karolina and Molly go to rescue a super-powered pre-teen girl from a guy they think is her father but turns out to be her husband. Nico uses her magic abilities to search the bank’s vaults for a device that might allow them to get back to their own time, but she is captured by a group of superheroes that include a really old-school robot, a Punisher precursor named the Adjudicator, and possibly the silliest Batman and Robin stand-ins ever, a pair of police-themed vigilantes named Nightstick and Daystick. And Chase and Xavin confront the super-powered villains camp, only to discover that the villains are led by the time-traveling parents of their dead teammate Gert.
It’s all rather eventful, and Whedon makes it enjoyable, delivering the trademark Runaways dialogue that Brian K. Vaughan established. When Victor, the robotic son of Ultron, is sleeping, Molly says, “Wake up, C-sleepy-O!” When quizzed about what he was dreaming about, he replies, “Electric sheep.” There are plenty of other good jokes and references; Whedon seems to really be grasping the characters’ individual voices. While Michael Ryan is doing the best he can, it’s hard to live up to the standard Adrian Alphona set for the title. He’s gotten better though; previous issues saw some awkward compositions and anatomy, but those problems have disappeared, leaving some fantastically-designed costumes and fun old-timey locales.
So it’s definitely worth reading, but it will probably work better when issues are read closer together. I look forward to the final two issues of the story, so hopefully I won’t have to wait another six months to read them.
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