Inevitably, Marvel’s Runaways and Cloak & Dagger beg comparison, since — unlike a bulk of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (so far) — the two Marvel Television series follow young adult characters. Both sets of characters were also linked in the comics; after all, prior to Runaways, Cloak & Dagger‘s Tandy Bowen and Tyrone Johnson were Marvel’s original runaways. However, in theme and tone, Freeform’s Cloak & Dagger has much more in common with the Marvel Netflix shows than it does with Hulu’s Runaways.
Let’s start off by looking at the basic premise of both shows. Runaways‘ is pretty straightforward: “Every teenager thinks their parents are evil. What if you found out they actually were?” Accordingly, the six main characters — Alex, Nico, Chase, Karolina, Gertrude and Molly — discover their parents murder runaways and set out to stop them. Cloak & Dagger, on the other hand, acts like more of a character piece, examining two young adults who lead very different lives but are somehow connected through a mystic power. While Tandy and Tyrone will likely discover they have more in common than they ever realized, they start out with very different goals, unlike the protagonists of Runaways, who are united by an inciting incident.
On the face of it, Runaways is inherently a little sillier than Cloak & Dagger. Evil parents! Magic staff! Genetically modified dinosaur! In this, the Hulu show is typical MCU fare, using larger-than-life circumstances as a means through which its more serious themes can be established. Runaways, of course, teased out complex relationships and explored grounded topics like familial abuse, but its main drive revolved around teens who sought to overcome their villainous parents (however pure their intentions may have been). The protagonists’ mission to stop their evil parents simply consumed most of the show’s screen time.
Of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this approach, but it does drive a wedge between Runaways and its sister series Cloak & Dagger. Only three episodes in, Cloak & Dagger has turned its focus towards more real world topics. For instance, with Billy Johnson’s death, the show is diving into the topic of police brutality, the unwarranted deaths of innocent black men at their hands and the ramifications it has on the victim’s family. Tandy’s storyline, on the other hand, addresses sexual abuse, corporate greed and espionage, substance abuse and more. However, Ty and Tandy’s powers — the thing that makes them extraordinary — take more of a backseat to these much more grounded topics; the supernatural element of Cloak & Dagger feels more like a window dressing than the focus.
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