Christos Gage and Karl Moline wrestle with a massive roster of characters as the entire “Runaways” cast guest stars in “Avengers Academy” #27. Looking for help locating Old Lace, their lost dinosaur, The Runaways come knocking at Avengers Academy and quite naturally get into a fight.
The fighting scene is expected; given superheroes too frequently default to fists first to settle disagreements. Plus, The Runaways have been treated poorly by the superhero community in the past and the Avengers Academy students aren’t the most level-headed group out there. Fighting is an obvious conclusion. However, it’s a good thing Gage doesn’t waste a lot of page time on the tiresome fighting as there is, at least for now, no real motivation or stakes to spurn the fighting on.
In truth, Gage’s work on this issue utterly confuses me. There are some incredibly fun and funny moments, moments which made me just love the book — including every line he gives to Molly, the exchange between Niko and Hazmat and many of the relationships he establishes between characters new and old. Gage also seems to have a pretty good handle on most of The Runaways’ voices and he handles the large cast decently well.
Unfortunately, the book has several confusing characters beats such as the opening scene in which Lightspeed carries on to Reptil about the importance of the coming out process, how sensitive everyone should be to Striker, letting him do things in his own time and having agency over his decision. This would be a great scene, except Lightspeed herself just outed Striker to Reptile — and acknowledges what she’s done. If there was supposed to be a lesson there about how Lightspeed is young and liable to make mistakes, it’s missed and instead comes off as sloppy writing. Either that or we’re supposed to assume that Lightspeed is an idiotic insensitive jerk despite her proclamations.
Moline’s artwork is nice on the whole but like the writing, it’s far too inconsistent to be considered strong. While the storytelling is clear for the most part, it’s not particularly compelling. More importantly, the faces of the characters change from panel to panel to a jarring degree. With so many characters in a single issue, it’s especially hard to keep track of everyone. Young Molly in one panel is perfectly on model and two panels later has giant puffy lips and big lashed eyes that look utterly bizarre on a pre-teen tomboy. Like Gage, Moline gets some moments in the book so right — like the brief flirting exchange between Lightspeed and Karolina, complete with twirling hair and lip chewing — but other scenes lack that specificity and detail and suffer greatly in comparison.
In fact, the only problem with The Runaways as guest stars in “Avengers Academy” is the painful reminder of what a superior book “Runaways” was to so many superhero books. Gage and Moline do some great work in “Avengers Academy” #27, but the inconsistency really undermines that work and makes this issue adequate at best when taken as a whole.