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Marvel Comics has never been afraid to look for new ways to sell its tales of super powered hi-jinks, and quite often, these experiments yield interesting and enduring results.1 One rather nice example is Brian K Vaughan’s Runaways.

Original pitched at manga reading teenagers, the book found popularity amongst comic book fans of all ages; after all, a light sprinkling of teen angst can go a long way, especially if you add super powers.
The premise of Runaways is quite fun; a band of teenagers who have known each other through childhood stumble across their parents performing some sort of sinister and evil ritual. This being the Marvel Universe, the kids jump to the conclusion that their folks have to be some sort of super villain team. Convinced that their own lives are in mortal peril, they make a break for it and go on the run, uncovering amazing revelations about themselves and their families on the way.

Original, fun and refreshing, but still very Marvel.

Runaways is a rites-of-passage tale with a heavy focus on emotional journeys and personal revelation. The kids argue, make-up and inevitably bond, becoming not simply a team of heroes but a family2 . The Marvel Universe stands out when everyday problems (such as teenage homelessness) run smack-bang into impossible things (such as The Incredible Hulk).

The other nifty thing about Runaways is that all the super-powered elements are really, really cool. From intelligent uses of over-used super powers to novel gadgets and resources (including frog-shaped vehicles and pet dinosaurs), the book takes familiar comic book tropes and makes them young again.

The original series of Runaways is well worth your time, as is the Joss Whedon run, especially if you like a little soap-opera in your comic books.

1: Case it point, the Ultimate series of books began life as a way to explore old stories in new ways, with an eye to perhaps making Marvel Movies. So much so in fact, that the reimagined comic book version of Nick Fury looked like Samuel Jackson in the hope that they could convince him to play that character in the movies. (It worked.)

2: Family is a major theme of the Marvel Universe, from the Fantastic Four onwards.

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