When last we left the Runaways, Marvel Studios had shelved its plans for a big-screen adaptation while the comics division was grossly mishandling the characters after the departure of creators Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona.
Under Vaughan and Alphona's steady hands, Runaways was one of the most original and acclaimed comic books Marvel had put out in years. But after the duo decided to move on to other things, Marvel struggled to find a writer capable of steering them properly. After several attempts at carrying on with other writers and artists, the Runaways popped up in a few crossover comics and events like Avengers Arena, but ultimately faded. They haven't been seen or heard from in a long while.
Marvel seems to think that its summer mega-event, Secret Wars, is the right time to bring Runaways back. But fans hoping to catch up with those long-missed characters, or see the title finally return to form, may be disappointed. The universe-jumbling nature of Secret Wars' Battleworld gives Marvel license to throw out the rules (and all of history) and go completely off-the-wall with its monthly titles.
In fact, it seems like this Runaways has very little in common with its namesake. The new Runaways finds a group of gifted students from all across Battleworld running away from a prestigious academy located in Battleworld's capitol city (which hasn't yet been revealed). Despite being hand-picked to attend, these teenagers soon discover that their headmaster is a super villain and they're being groomed for lives of crime.
Writer Noelle Stevenson and artist Sanford Greene take the Runaways reigns, but the roster they've selected is sure to surprise you. It includes characters we know today as adult superheroes, yet here they're depicted as teens apparently thanks to the wonders of alternate realities. The new Runaways include X-Man Jubilee, Bucky "Winter Soldier" Barnes, Cloak & Dagger, seventh-smartest person on the planet Amadeus Cho, Skaar son of Hulk and "a few new characters," according to Marvel. The group also includes one original Runaway: Molly Hayes.
It's an interesting idea, but this roster could have come together under any team name. The Runaways weren't like the Avengers, they were identified as a very specific group of characters that fans cared deeply about — and all but one of them are nowhere to be found in this new series. What's become of Chase, Karolina, Victor, Nico, etc.? Actually, Nico is slated to show up in Marvel's all-female A-Force title. But everyone else? Are they still together? Did they grow up and move on?
Hopefully someday, we'll get an answer. Until then, we have this strange alt-Earth group to tide us over. Hopefully they'll come together in a way that isn't as forced and awkward as it seems at first glance.
The new Runaways #1 will be on sale sometime in June 2015.