Marvel's Runaways has been ticking all the right boxes so far, even as it manages to make some pretty drastic changes to the source material to fulfill its 10 episode requirement. The book, which debuted in 2003 from writer Brian K. Vaughn and artist Adrian Alphona, was once tapped for the big screen but Marvel Studios' success with their Avengers-centric plans bumped it to television.
Hulu would end up as its destination with Head of Marvel Television Jeph Loeb calling it an "easy decision" to make. "We were very excited about the possibility of joining a network that was young and growing in the same way that when we went to Netflix when it was young and growing on the original side. It really feels like we’re in the right place at the right time with the right show," he added, reiterating that Marvel wanted to diversify outside of Netflix and its vigilante shows there.
But with Netflix and Amazon Prime seen as the leading streaming services at present, one has to wonder if Hulu was indeed the right decision. Given how well the show is unfolding as a comic-book coming of age story, the truth is you can't help but feel Runaways is a big fish in a small pond, and one that honestly deserves much better.
Such an amazing adaptation deserves to be put in the biggest spotlight possible but this doesn't feel like the case here. Now, these kids aren't your typical superheroes but they've been in key stories from Marvel Comics, including game-changers such as Civil War and Secret Invasion, and should be somewhere where their footprint as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is impactful. Hulu isn't this place, simply offering it a place to shine, but without the magnifying glass it needs to stand out.
Netflix, on the other hand, offers not just a bigger audience, but one that relates to comic book shows and more so, one connected to the MCU via the likes of Daredevil and The Punisher. Quite frankly, Runaways on Hulu feels like a wasted opportunity to capitalize, not only on this viewership segment, but also on the chance to initially launch the show as a strong brand. Let's be real, when you think of comic-related properties, you simply don't think of Hulu, so even if something's a success there, it won't be making the same noise.
Runaways focuses on teens who discover their parents are villains and must now band together to right their wrongs: Rhenzy Feliz as Alex Wilder, a nerd; Lyrica Okano as Nico Minoru, a wiccan; Virginia Gardner as Karolina Dean, an ethereal being and potential alien; Ariela Barer as Gert Yorkes, a brash social justice warrior; Gregg Sulkin as Chase Stein, a genius jock; and Allegra Acosta as Molly Hernandez, the baby of the group with superhuman strength. In short, it's a teen drama, and not an adult one like Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale, so it should be housed where it can resonate the most, not just as a brand, but in terms of its narrative.
Given its teen-angst, Runaways is a perfect fit for those who love 13 Reasons Why (a teen suicide drama) or even Atypical (which focuses on an autistic outcast navigating his way through high school). You don't get the impression that Hulu can fully dive into bullying, sex, violence, self-harm, cults, and substance abuse, as well as darker themes like human trafficking, human sacrifice, gangs and well, murder. As a result, the show feels limited, acknowledging the boundaries of network television but never really going past them, which leaves the viewer shortchanged.
Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, executive producers on the show, engineered the likes of Fox's The O.C. and CW's Gossip Girl, which were big hits among its youth demographic, but on Hulu, there's an air of creative restraint. Their pedigree alone should have given Marvel the confidence to treat the show as something more than a television experiment, which again is the corner Hulu backs the project into: that of a confined space as opposed to a canvas for television grandeur.
Furthermore, putting Runaways on Hulu is simply an experiment for Marvel to see where else it can expand. A property as good as Runaways should be a prize, not a lab rat.
Taking all this into account, Runaways' overall television essence actually ends up reflecting its life as a comic: one that will only garner a cult following at best. As it stands right now, this cloud of constraint looming overhead makes you think Marvel TV is just playing it safe, resulting in something that's on the cusp of greatness, but not poised to reach full potential.
Now streaming on Hulu, Marvel’s Runaways stars Rhenzy Feliz, Lyrica Okano, Virginia Gardner, Ariela Barer, Gregg Sulkin, Allegra Acosta, Ryan Sands, Angel Parker, Brittany Ishibashi, James Yaegashi, Kevin Weisman, Brigid Brannagh, Annie Wersching, Kip Pardue, James Marsters and Ever Carradine.