SPOILER WARNING: This article contains minor spoilers for the first four episodes of Marvel's Runaways, debuting Nov. 21 on Hulu.
Based on the marketing, it might be easy to dismiss Marvel's Runaways as little more than a CW-style teen drama, albeit one with a dinosaur. And, yes, the new Hulu series is chock-full of adolescent angst and rebellion, but also sinister conspiracies, murder, magic and aliens. In short, it very well may be the most faithful television adaptations of a comic book yet -- in spirit, in any case.
Based on the beloved 2003 Marvel Comics series created by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona, the genius of Runaways is in its relatively simple, and undeniably relatable, premise: Six kids discover that their parents are secretly members of a villainous cabal known as the Pride, and unite to stop them. (What grounded teen hasn't suspected their parents might actually be evil?)
The Hulu drama, developed by Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage (The O.C.), imbues that setup with emotional layers the source material (as good as it is) didn't have. Exploiting the serial format of the medium, the series develops the shared backstory of titular teens, turning them into close-knit friends driven apart by tragedy, and transforming their parents from mustache-twirling supervillains into complex characters with distinct motivations, problems and flaws. Some of them are -- dare we say it? -- almost likable.
Although Runaways ditches the notion of "supervillains," it keeps intact the Pride as a secret society united by intertwining business interests (property development, pharmaceutical research, etc.) and far more sinister pursuits, somehow tied to the Church of Gibborim, a Scientology-like New Age group headed by Leslie Dean (Annie Wersching), mother of Karolina (Virginia Gardner). Wealthy pillars of their communities, they meet once a year at the home of Geoffrey Wilder and Catherine Wilder (Ryan Sands and Angel Parker), purportedly to plan their philanthropic activities. The truth is, of course, much darker, to say nothing of weirder.
Once inseparable but now estranged following the apparent suicide of Amy Minoru, the older sister of isolated goth Nico (Lyrica Okano), the children reunite at the Wilder house that same evening, in part through the efforts of nerdy Alex Wilder (Rhenzy Feliz), but also through a series of unfortunate coincidences: Lacrosse player Chase Stein (Gregg Sulkin) stands up Gert Yorkes (Ariela Barer), who had offered to tutor him in Spanish, to instead go to a party. There, good-girl Karolina passes out after removing her Church of Gibborim bracelet for the first time in her life, revealing her iridescent true form, and is nearly sexually assaulted by Chase's jock friends. Left home alone, where there's something lurking behind a door in the basement, young Molly Hernandez (not Hayes, played by Allegra Acosta) calls her adoptive sister Gert -- a significant departure from the source material -- and pleads to be taken anywhere but there.