New York City is home to a multitude of costumed crime fighters. This fall, a few more superheroes will be patrolling the streets of the Big Apple. In the recently begun "East Coast/West Coast" story arc of one of Marvel Comics' most unique superhero teams, "The Runaways" is taking a field trip to NYC. In part one of our two-part look at "Runaways," CBR News spoke with series writer Brian K Vaughan about the book and story arc, which began this month.
For new readers who want to give "Runaways" a try, the latest story arc is a good place to begin. "I know 'perfect jumping-on point' is one of the most overused phrases in comics, but I promise, that's exactly what the four-part 'East Coast/West Coast' is," Vaughan told CBR News. "If you've been looking for an excuse to check out the comic that all of those annoying people online have been screaming at you to try, this is the arc for you."
"Runaways" does have some back story that will help readers enjoy the series, which Vaughan broke down for new readers. "At some point in their lives, all kids think that they have the most evil parents in the world, but Nico Minoru and her friends really did," Vaughan explained. "Discovering that they were the children of a group of super-villains known as The Pride, the teenagers stole weapons and resources from these criminals, before running away from home and eventually defeating their parents. But that was just the beginning.
"As for their backgrounds, we've got new team leader Nico Minoru, daughter of dark wizards," Vaughan continued. "There's Gert Yorkes, daughter of time-traveling despots who willed her a telepathic dinosaur named Old Lace. Her boyfriend is lovably dimwitted Chase Stein, son of mad scientists. The youngest is Molly Hayes, the supernaturally strong child of evil mutants. Finally, replacing the recently departed Karolina Dean (daughter of alien invaders) is Victor Mancha, the cyborg son of ULTRON, the Marvel Universe's legendary killing machine!"
In the Marvel Universe, its a normal thing for the residents of New York city to look up and see Spider-Man swinging by, but "Runaways" is set in Los Angeles which is not a haven for costumed characters like the Big Apple. "I imagine that Angelinos in the Marvel Universe think of super heroes and villains the way that New Yorkers think of Hollywood celebrities," Vaughan explained. "We see them on TV every day, so we know that they exist, but they still seem distant and unreal. But that's all about to change.
Now that their evil parents are gone, nearly every bad guy in the Marvel Universe is trying to fill the power vacuum in Los Angeles, and the Runaways are the only heroes who can stop them."
In addition to the swarm of villains descending on the City of Angels, the Runaways have to contend with a number of other complications. "Unfortunately, our young heroes are being pursued by everyone from the LAPD to social services to Excelsior, a 'support group' for recovering teenage vigilantes made up of former members of the New Warriors, Power Pack, and other cool groups from Marvel's past," Vaughan said.
Vaughan had good news and bad news for readers looking to see more of the Excelsior team. "Excelsior is going to take a backseat in our book for a bit, though there has been talk of one of my favorite writers possibly launching a new book staring those characters," Vaughan stated. "Stay tuned."
The events of the recent arc "Star-Crossed," which saw long time team member Karolina Dean leaving Earth to help prevent a galactic war, have had a huge impact on the team's psyche. "The team is emotionally fractured," Vaughan explained. "Nico misses her best friend, Gert and Chase are struggling to make their new relationship work, and Molly is trying to get along with Victor, who's still doing his best to shake the 'new kid' handle. Our upcoming arc is either going to bring these kids closer together… or drive them much, much further apart."
As seen in the most recent issue, the "East Coast/West Coast" arc begins with Cloak, one of the few New York based Marvel heroes the Runaways are acquainted with, teleporting into their headquarters and imploring the teens to help clear his name.
So, the Runaways make a field trip to the Big Apple to track down the villain responsible for framing Cloak in a brutal attack on his partner, Dagger. "Well, someone has allegedly been impersonating Cloak, so it could be Chameleon, Copycat, Mystique, any of the Marvel Universe's villainous masters of disguise," Vaughan said. "But, this being 'Runaways,' it could also be an all-new threat. Of course, there's no chance that Cloak really is guilty of this heinous crime… is there?"
As they pound the pavement of NYC's concrete jungles in pursuit of the villain who framed Cloak, the Runaways will encounter a number of the city's costumed champions. "We've got just about all of the New Avengers, including Captain America, Iron Man, Luke Cage, and Spider-Woman," Vaughan stated. "I'm particularly looking forward to Molly finally meeting Wolverine, her longtime crush, and grumpy Gert Yorkes hanging with Spider-Man, the Marvel Universe's original teenage hero."
With Marvel's crossover event "House of M" having sweeping, drastic effects on the life's of Mutants in the Marvel U, some readers might be wondering if Vaughan will address "House of M" in "Runaways." "There may be a brief mention (what with Molly being a mutant), but that's it," Vaughan explained. "I've loved 'House of M,' but for the majority of our readers, who check out our digest collections in bookstores, 'Runaways' is the only Marvel comic they read, so we try to make the book as accessible as possible. Having recognizable characters like Spider-Man guest-star is okay, I think, but complex crossovers like 'House of M' might be a little too disorienting for new readers. But never say never…"
When the "Runaways" return home they may have their hands full with a new threat. At the end of the recent "True Believers" story arc, Vaughan revealed that a new incarnation of The Pride has been formed with a leader, who may or may not be a former Runaways member, the allegedly deceased Alex Wilder, who betrayed the team. "I'm afraid I can't comment on this supposed new Pride or their mysterious leader, but we'll certainly be hearing more from them before the end of the year," Vaughan explained.
"Runaways" is a complex book that has a shifting and varied tone. "I like to think our book can be hilarious one second and horrific the next. It's got magic decoder rings, secret hideouts, tortured romances, unbelievably shocking acts of evil, and all of the things that made me fall in love with comics when I started reading. 'Runaways' may not be a 'mature readers book,' but it's just as dark and challenging and irreverent as series like 'Y' and 'Ex Machina.' But like those books, I also like to think that it's fun and imaginative and unpredictable."
Vaughan recommends "Runaways" to readers looking for something new and different in the world of four-color adventures. "Adrian Alphona's artwork is just unbelievably great, and completely unlike anything else on the stands right now," Vaughan said. "I flatter myself to think that our series is the kind of classic, high-concept, new book that Lee and Kirby and Ditko would want to see companies publishing more of today. Those guys didn't get into comics to work on Batman and Superman; they got into the medium to help build a House of Ideas. Hopefully, 'Runaways' follows in that tradition."
"Runaways" may not be Marvel's top selling book, but it does have a legion of devoted fans who were instrumental in getting the word out about the series. "I just want to thank readers for helping to make our relaunch (and our recent hardcover collection!) such a tremendous success. It's probably the biggest comeback for a team book since 'Giant Size X-Men' #1and I'm grateful to everyone who made it possible. This series is really important to me, and having already outlined the next eighteen issues, I can promise that the best is yet to come."
Look for more on "Runaways"-- including additional preview pages-- tomorrow here on CBR as we talk with series artist Adrian Alphona.