Written by David Quinn
You can’t turn around without bumping into another superhero on the small screen these days. Joining the DC TV line-up soon will be Black Lightning, with Krypton and Teen Titans following not too far thereafter. However, there’s a Marvel show that has been out for a couple of months now in the US that we are yet to see announced for a local distributor, and that’s a real shame because Runaways is great!
Based on the breakout hit comics series from 2003, Runaways was a part of the Marvel Tsunami imprint, a sadly short-lived experiment in appealing to younger readers, Manga readers specifically. It survived the untimely demise of the imprint and continued on in various different forms right up until 2017. Now we are going back to the beginnings of the story in a weekly TV format on US-based streaming service Hulu, which is unfortunate for us, as there’s no Australian equivalent yet.
Marvel are spreading their net over a wide expanse these days with Netflix shows like Daredevil, Punisher and Jessica Jones proving popular, their shows on traditional TV networks like Agent Carter, Inhumans and Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. drawing large but unstable viewing numbers. Then there’s experiments like Runaways and the upcoming Cloak And Dagger series going to smaller networks.
Do they all still tie-in to the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe? Probably not. Will they then also interact with Fox properties like The Gifted (the best X-Men TV show you’ve not seen yet, either), finally bringing Mutant-kind back to Marvel? Unlikely. But if you like your superheroes from the Marvel stable, you’re not doing too badly.
Runaways is the story of five teenagers who find out that their parents are a group of supervillains called The Pride, and that they have been responsible for the deaths of a number of homeless kids and are potentially trying to bring about some kind of earth destroying armageddon. They must overcome their own insecurities, rekindle old friendships and learn to work together as a team to try and bring their parents down. Also, they have a dinosaur and it’s totally cool.
Featuring a young cast of almost complete newbies as the leads, Runaways fills its parental line-up with some great names, including recent Supanova Supa-Star Guest James Marsters, and a long-term Supanova-alumni, Kevin Weisman, not to mention (the perhaps best forgotten) Dr Doom himself, Julian McMahon. Their evil machinations are what drives the drama, but it’s the kids who are moving the story forward and the show is definitely at its best when it is balancing themes like ‘coming of age’ and ‘exploring your adult identity’ with kooky pseudo-science, alien menaces and world-shattering super-villainy.
The plot and tension builds impressively throughout the series and the last few episodes will leave you extremely hungry for a second season, which thankfully has recently been greenlit! The effects are generally great, though some work better as ideas than actual on-screen images. Readers of the comic will be excited to see that Old Lace is represented impressively well on a TV budget and is as lovable as its possible for someone that scaley to be.
Hopefully we will see Runaways picked up in Australia by Netflix, Stan or one of the other streaming services so that you can get in and binge it all quick-smart. It is really enjoyable, smart, and creative teen-focussed stories happening in the Marvel Universe, told in a way that doesn’t talk down to its audience and knows where it’s going. Our fingers are crossed it happens soon!
Update: 22 January 2018 – Marvel’s Runaways starts airing on Tuesday, 13 February at 8.30pm on Foxtel’s FOX8.