Noelle Stevenson and Sanford Greene wrap up the “Doomed Youth” story arc in “Runaways” #4. Of all the issues, this one feels the most rushed. A lot happens, though some of the plot twists would have been better-served with more lead time to build tension. However, the artwork makes up for some of the pacing, especially the superb facial expressions in the final showdown scene with Bucky and Valeria.
At the beginning of the issue, Valeria still spouts propaganda for her father with her shark-like little girl grin. I like her combination of self-importance, cuteness and viciousness, but so little attention has been paid to her that the confrontation with her father’s soldiers isn’t as meaningful as it could have been. It’s not surprising that her right-hand man/babysitter Bucky is the catalyst for this change, but Bucky’s own decisions are a surprise, because the character has been a blank slate up until now. Based on the amount of characterization Valeria and Bucky have received up to this point, the emotions in the scene are premature and unearned. The plot twist and its lesson about power feel cliched. The page layout, perspective angles and the progression of facial expressions for Valeria — from panic to fierceness to stunned horror — give the scene all its pathos.
The weakest part of Stevenson’s plot is the revolution-by-TV-broadcast. It fulfills the requirements, but it’s a stale solution, even if it does remind the reader of the link between the control of information and tyranny. Stevenson’s dialogue for Tyrone and Tandy feels natural, but the revolution itself is the most predictable and least exciting part of “Runaways” #4. The rebellion dynamics feel incidental. It’s really the relationships between the characters that drive the energy of the story.
The romantic undercurrent of Sanna and Jubilee’s mutual dislike was foreshadowed in previous issues. Other than Bucky and Valeria’s scene, their reunion has the most dramatic juice. The result is an overdose of squee-worthy sweetness, but it’s enjoyable. It feels true to Jubilee’s characterization that she would be quick to forgive if her opponent was vulnerable. Sanna gets absorbed back into the group a little too easily or quickly, but her motivations and behavior are realistic.
Delphyne and Cho don’t hold the spotlight as well as the stronger personalities in the group, but they’re more believable. Valeria’s conversation with Cho is bland because she’s still in spin doctor mode, and Cho’s “new family” line feels stale even though the sentiment is sweet. There’s no suspense about what either of them will do. In contrast, the opening scene with Delphyne and Cho is one of Stevenson’s most skillful. It juggles multiple functions: getting the reader caught up on Delphyne’s condition, divulging Sanna’s feelings and adding another layer to Delphyne and Cho’s budding flirtation. Those two have the lightest, most effortless dialogue in “Runaways” #4.
Like Ty and Tandy, Molly and Skaar don’t get as much development in the arc, but they exchange a memorable fist bump for anti-“gooshy” solidarity. Greene pushes the humor further by giving them identical, grimly disapproving expressions. They round out a strong team, and it’s a shame this combination of characters will probably end when “Secret Wars” concludes.
Despite some predictable beats and too many plot points crammed into one issue, “Runaways” #4 is still an engrossing, fun read. Based on what they’ve been able to accomplish in four issues, Stevenson and Greene should be given the chance to work together again, preferably on an ongoing team comic.