Runaways #13 Review

by Charles Martin on September 12, 2018

Runaways #13 Review
Writer: Rainbow Rowell
Artist: David Lafuente
Colourist: Jim Campbell
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel Comics

After polishing off their first 12 issues with a glorious crescendo of Vonnegutian delight, the Runaways suffer through an issue-long record-scratch as the arrival of deadly antagonists (and Alex Wilder) thoroughly joggles their status quo.

Runaways #13 is an issue of upheavals for both the team and the readers. Threatening events snowball breathlessly on the protagonists. There's no time to curl up and dish about who kissed whom; this is nonstop action and conflict. And for the readers, there's an entirely new art style to come to terms with.

On the story front, this is all Alex Wilder's fault. He rolls up to the Runaways' doorstep dragging Hell behind him. He needs protection so desperately that his ex-teammates don't even have a chance to give him a proper tongue-lashing over his cavalcade of poor life choices. 

That's why we get action AND conflict; when the Runaways aren't fighting for their lives, they're reminding each other and Alex and us how dreadful Alex was prior to his first death. This issue strikes a delicate, effective balance between recapping old business and contextualizing it to emphasize why it's important now.

The script delivers fascinating depth because it welds instant claws-out antagonism to a disturbing aptitude for teamwork. Even in the middle of a force-10 argument, Alex takes command of the Runaways and functions as an effective field leader. He organizes their fighting and strengthens them. (The whole fight makes an interesting contrast to the team's earlier, more desperate doorstep rumble with Doombot.) Alex's actions make the persuasive argument for accepting him that he fails to put into words. And that's terrifying.

Out in reader-land, the biggest upheaval involved in Runaways #13 is a violent art shift. David Lafuente spins in with a distinctive, refined, chunky visual style. It does a great job of communicating moods. It gives the combat scenes a sense of vibrant motion. It is scrupulous about maintaining design details even as it dramatically changes the characters' looks. Nico, Karolina, and Gert are in the same outfits they wore in #12, and the art makes that clear.

It's such a jarringly different take on the team, though! The average age has dropped by several years, the clothes - even when they're the same clothes - have developed the chunky thickness of cartoon costumes, and human proportions have gone likewise toonish.

This isn't Runaways. It's Runaways Go!

I want to make it clear that this isn't a case of artistic incompetence. Considered in a vacuum, this issue is very pretty. It's just way too different from what's come before. If you were under the impression that Kris Anka's role in making the last 12 issues great was relatively minor, this will correct your thinking in a hurry.

The most telling detail I can offer on this visual shift's impact is that it sent me scampering to the solicits to check future artistic plans. If I'm reading the news right, Kris Anka is back starting at issue #15. And finding that out prompted a big sigh of relief.

The return of Alex Wilder brings lots of fascinating character conflict and tons of action. This issue also brings a new artist into the fold, and the shift in visual style is a lot less welcome than the change in storytelling tone. With all due respect to David Lafuente, his cartoonier take on the Runaways just emphasizes how truly magical Kris Anka's work has been. This series remains eminently readable, but this issue and the next one are likely to go down in history as "the Alex issues with the wonky art."

Our Score:


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Charles Martin's picture
The hardest thing to put into words: One artist draws an outfit and you think, "Yeah, that's something a stylish young person would wear today." Another artist draws an outfit and you think, "Ugh, it's the marketing department's take on what a hep kid looks like in Q3 2018." And it's the same outfit