[Disclaimer: This review contains spoilers for the first episode and first comic arc of Runaways. If you haven’t read the comics, references are made to what happens in Runaways: The Complete Collection, Volume 1.]
Based on the comics by Brian K. Vaughan (Paper Girls, Saga) and Adrian Alphona (Ms. Marvel), Runaways is the story of six very different teenagers whose parents claim to be members of a charity group, Pride. “Claim” is the new word in this sentence since, until recently, they had no reason to suspect otherwise, but when the premier episode ‘Reunion’ ends with them walking in on their parents’ human sacrifice, they’re forced to reconsider the lies they’ve been told since birth.
Coming to streaming TV from Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, who know a thing or two about writing stories around wealthy teens (The OC, Gossip Girl), these old pals may have met through their parents (cue The Dandy Warhols’ “We Used to Be Friends”) but can they forge an alliance against them?
Game Changers: Nico’s Sister and Molly’s Adoption
A big part of the first episode focuses on the friends starting to address why the group splintered after the death of Nico’s sister, Amy. Amy is a character written for the show and, in the comics, all the teens were only children. Gert was like a big sister to Molly, but it’s the TV show that makes it official, by having Molly be adopted (her parents died in a fire).
Numbers are important in Runaways, since a big point of the first arc is that only six people (the six children of the twelve parents of Pride) will be granted eternal life by the Gibborim [alluded to this episode with the name of Karolina’s parents’ church]. Amy’s death fixes the math but brings into question why she was added in the first place.
One reason is that she provides the friends with a backstory they didn’t have in the comics, where hanging out once a year was mandatory, not optional. There’s also the matter of how Amy died. From Alex’s decision not to attend Amy’s funeral, I have a theory: Amy was the Pride’s sacrifice last year. Alex found out and that’s why he stayed home, to process learning his parents were killers.
Before and After: How Well The Runaways Get Along With Their Parents
Assuming, then, that his parents would know that Alex knows, this could explain Alex’s deference, and why his dad (Ryan Sands) seems softer on the show than in the comics. In the first issue of Runaways, Geoffrey Wilder yells at his son for playing video games. In “Reunion”, he offers to join him.
Another parent-child dynamic that’s vastly different from the comics’ is Karolina’s. In the books, Karolina is the longest hold out, not wanting to believe her mom and dad are super villains on par with the others’ parents. On the show, she’s weary of being the poster child for their church and wants to rebel against them. It reminds me of Mylene Cruz’s storyline on The Get Down and is also relevant to the part religion could play in Karolina exploring her sexuality (the Church of Gibborim hasn’t mentioned its stance on gay marriage).
One parent that hasn’t changed at all: Victor Stein. Played by Buffy‘s James Marsters, we may not meet Stein punching his son, Chase, in the face like we do in the comics, but he’s clearly as abusive as ever.
It’s interesting to see how male hairstyles have evolved through Chase. Skater boy locks get traded for hair gel, while Gert’s parents (Brigid Brannagh and Alias‘ Kevin Weisman) see their looks turned down from being steampunk in the comics.
Quite a few storylines are introduced early, like Gert’s crush on Chase and her family’s dinosaur, Old Lace, and while I’m surpassing my personal knowledge of the source material [I’ve read the first arc/volumes 1-3], I believe Nico dabbles in necromancy later, which means the show’s changing that time table as well.
TV has always been fascinated by teen drug use, but on Runaways it’s used as a misdirect for Karolina finding out about her powers. Written off as a side effect of the drugs, when Karolina throws her pill out the window, she’s as sober as can be.
Another change that makes a difference is how the Pride perform their sacrifice. In the comics, Alex’s dad stabs the young woman to death, but on the show, she’s dropped into a tomb of light. This could make her fate more ambiguous, for kids who want to believe their parents aren’t murderers, or viewers who want to believe in their parents, too.
Marvel’s Runaways streams Tuesdays on Hulu.