Runaways #21 Review

by Charles Martin on May 22, 2019

Runaways #21 Review
Writer: Rainbow Rowell
Artist: Andrés Genolet
Colourist: Chris O'Halloran
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Nobody does quiet "day in the life" episodes quite as well as the Runaways, and #21 is just the latest in its long line of stellar examples.

Chase starts us off by befriending a helpful clerk at the Haul Mart as he makes an intriguing grocery run. Cat food in Old Lace quantities! Soldering irons! Menstrual products!

It's a superb lead-in to some delightfully clever flirting - if only Chase, the poor dope, realized what was going on!

Plenty of other plot threads are twined with Chase's this month. Karolina goes to therapy for the first time in too long, and it's a disturbing experience. She's happy and things are great. She's anxious because of how great things are. She's crying because she's anxious and happy and wuh-oh.

We've got a lot of Marvel characters enjoying the benefits of therapy these days. (Particularly, almost exclusively, female ones … hmm.) But creators rarely take us inside the therapist's office like this. For good reason - it's mighty tempting to set aside the old "show don't tell" maxim and use the therapist as an opportunity to dictate a character's mental state.

Rainbow Rowell neatly avoids that trap. Yes, Karolina's therapy session is direct and informative. But her subsequent scene - doing a bit of impromptu hero-ing when she stumbles into a police chase - restores balance by going all "show" and no "tell". It provides some wonderfully open-ended new possibilities for Karolina.

The script recenters on Chase for a cathartic conversation with Molly. And before we run out of pages, it delivers a brief but tremendously momentous update on Victor. It promises lots of difficult conversations in the future!

On the visual side, this issue demonstrates again that Andrés Genolet and Chris O'Halloran are careful custodians of the visual style established by Kris Anka and Matt Wilson. They've mastered the same efficient, expressive faces and the modulated colours (particularly for flesh tones) that add so much depth to the characters. And they've made the artistic transition so much less jarring than the last big shift.

But they have some refinements of their own to try! Mr. Genolet attacks the therapy scene in a challenging way, using repeated head-on panels of a seated Karolina to do carefully-nuanced full-body expression work. And he teams up with Mr. O'Halloran to introduce more detailed backgrounds than the Runaways are used to. It's especially well-suited to an "ordinary day" story like this.

My deep desire to avoid spoiling the best developments makes it a little tricky to talk about the brilliance of Rainbow Rowell's script. The character and relationship work is deeply enjoyable in itself, but it's also moving forward - quite dramatically so. 

The dialogue covers many different tones. It goes from flirty to soul-searching to heartfelt, and every approach lands with intense realism. Ms. Rowell shows a true mastery of the way any day - every day - can run the gamut from mundane to meaningful. 

This is a quiet day for the Runaways in terms of battles fought or changes to the status quo. But the characters are, as always, evolving in fascinating ways. It's beautiful to see and compelling to read. And, like the best "slow" issues, it promises dramatic upheavals in the immediate future.

Our Score:


A Look Inside


Charles Martin's picture
Look at Van, the young woman hitting on Chase. Now, look at the cover of #20. Now start your conspiracy theories!