Civil War: Young Avengers & Runaways Paperback – May 16 2007
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While this is the weakest installment in the Runaways saga, it still isn't bad. The story takes place after the end of creator Brian Vaughan's run with the series and immediately before Joss Whedon took place. This is far less compelling stuff than the Vaughan stories and based on the first two issues by Whedon not nearly up to the level of that either (for one thing, given Whedon's gift with dialogue, the "talk" has gotten really, really good--e.g., when Kingpin tells our guys that he wasn't talking to them for a lesson in semantics, Chase replies that Mel Gibson didn't like semantics either, only one of many really clever jokes).
The story, which takes place over four issues, is pretty short and simple: the Runaways are spotted in L.A. taking down an out of control caped guy and the Cyborg Victor is hurt badly repelling the attack of those who would like to arrest them under the new act requiring all super heroes to register with the government. The Young Avengers sympathize with their situation and fly to the West Coast to help Victor and the others. After initial misunderstandings they realize they are not enemies, but are attacked by an super empowered soldier under the control of the warden of the secret prison where the unregistered super-empowered are jailed. After the warden takes the alien members of each team for his own sadistic experimentations (aliens having no rights in the eyes of the law,) both groups teams up to free their cohorts.
All in all it is a fairly successful pairing. As usual there are some friendly rivalry, especially between Xavin and Hulkling, as well as some natural pairing. The two who should spend some time with each other are Nico and Vision, for while she can cast any spell there is, she can only do so once, though different variants in language multiples the spells. And Vision being something of a supercomputer, can give her almost endless versions of spells.
So, while this isn't a classic, it is fun. And given the rather limited amount of Runaways material, it is worth the purchase price just for that. But while Brian Vaughan's efforts in the series are among the best comic work of recent years and Whedon's work has all the earmarks of at least matching that, this can only be considered as "minor" Runaways. But if like me you just don't think you've gotten enough, then get this. I will add in closing that it does provide a bit of a narrative bridge from the end of Vaughan's final contributions to the series to the start of Whedon's. It explains why they are in New York at the start of the latest run and Xavin's exceedingly difficult integration into the group is furthered in this book.
The Runaways are taking down some costumed lunatic with a mace who is ranting about super-beings being the last truly independent power structure when S.H.I.E.L.D. shows up to take the kids (who have an adjusted public sympathy rating of mark 8 because they are minors) into custody. But Victor is synthetic (i.e., a mark 3) and things escalate. Victor is damaged and because the Vision was monitoring the situation the Young Avengers decide to head to L.A. to offer assistance. Now, one thing we know about the Marvel Universe is that when two groups of superheroes get together, they are going to fight (I think the first "Avengers" comic book I bought was because they were fighting the X-Men, complete with the requisite cover showing the two teams lined up to fight each other). Add to that one of the favorite recurring comic moments with the Runaways is when somebody assumes Molly is just a cute little girl and they quickly learn the error of their ways. But before the Runaways and Young Avengers can really go down that predictable road, the Vision starts having problems similar to Victor. Then S.H.I.E.L.D. strikes again and the two teams of young superheroes have to band together, which is also quite predictable. Fortunately writer Zeb Wells ("New Warriors") has a good enough feel for the Runaways and the New Avengers to have some fun playing the characters off of each other.
I am sort of surprised that they would devote a mini-series to this Runaways/New Avengers crossover, because it really is a sideshow to the whole "Civil War" event. After all, it is just S.H.I.E.L.D. that comes after them. The back of this trade paperback asks "Whose Side...Are You On?' Granted, this is key question for Marvel's superheroes in the "Civil War" event, but I found the response of the Runaways to the question to be patently obvious. Actually, the more I read of the back cover and the exaggerated claims about what was inside ("the gears of Civil War threaten to crush the Runaways" with "lasting repercussions for both popular teams!") the less I was impressed with this story. But Wells and illustrator Stefano Caselli ("Avengers: The Initiative") are not responsible for what is on the back cover, only what is in these four issues. The back of this trade paperback has a two-page spread showing how the four covers fit together into one giant strip of art and then a dozen character profiles that are well suited to helping fans of one series get a better idea of the characters from the other team. If the goal here was to get me to start reading the "Young Avengers" as well as the "Runaways," that is not going to happen. In fact, taking a look at one of the competing "young" superhero teams only reinforced while the Runaways are something special.
Storywise, the Civil War is basically a shoestring to have the teams meet and interact, before they rescue their kidnapped members from the dastardly clutches of SHIELD. Wells is one of many writers who doesn't give the pro-Reg side a fair shake, although he does come up with some quite hilarious bits, such as SHIELD's "adjusted public sympathy rating" which governs the level of force they employ against unregistered heroes (robots are okay to trash, but not kids). The two series have a huge cast, well over a dozen characters, so Wells focusses in on a few of the characters who have logical connections; the two Skrull characters, Teddy and Xavin; the two robots, Vision and Victor; and Chase, Molly, and Speed, in a plot that follows up on the death of a Runaway in the preceding story in that title. There are bits and pieces for most others, with only Patriot and Hawkeye II (especially the latter) really not having much at all. A particular favourite subplot/running joke was Stature's interest/concern for Victor, and the Vision's annoyance at this; Wells presumably has read the various fan observances of Cassie's taste in men. There is also the introduction into the Marvel Universe proper of Marvel Boy, from Grant Morrison's miniseries of the same name, and Wells handles him quite well too.
If there is a real complaint about this, it is that, while enjoyable, the Young Avengers ultimately turned out to have far more important status quo changes forced upon them by the Civil War, changes that were not really addressed in any concerted fashion for a year and a half or more, and, looking back, it might have been preferable to get something that examined their status with their parents, and (especially) their reaction to Cassie's defection later on. All the same, this is a very enjoyable, isolated adventure for both teams, well worth getting for fans of either or both.
"Young Avengers & Runaways: Civil War" (Marvel Comics, 2008)
This was easily one of the best of Marvel's "Civil War" books, a fun romp with two new teen supergroups meeting for a big, four-issue crossover/mashup event. It's largely one of the better Civil War titles because the overblown, overhyped Civil War plotline actually has very little to do with the story itself. Basically, this is a good old-fashioned superteam crossover, with a fairly standard structure: the set-up, the obligatory misunderstanding/battle when the two groups meet, the recognition of the real threat, peril and then triumph. Yay! Who could want more?
The fight between the two teams was thankfully brief, but also packed with funny dialogue (particularly the self-referential parts where the two teams compared notes and joked about how similar they are -- the script makes light of how formulaic the two teams are but doesn't let the story get bogged down by it, and readers don't feel pulled out of the action. Also, the bad guy, The Warden, is really creepy, sort of a cross between that old Marvel baddie The Collector and the real world's Josef Mengele. Yikes. He's a genuinely disturbing sadistic figure, and while his comeuppance seemed a little bit abrupt, it was most certainly welcome. The Runaways are always a gas, and the cross-team interactions were engaging. If you're looking for a good, easy read, this is a fun book. (Joe Sixpack, ReadThatAgain book reviews)