Runaways #27 Review

by Charles Martin on November 13, 2019

Runaways #27 Review
Writer: Rainbow Rowell
Penciller: Kris Anka
Inkers: Kris Anka & Walden Wong
Colourists: Dee Cunniffe & Jim Campbell
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Before the Runaways are fully converted into the J-Team and hit the streets with Doc Justice, there's the little matter of dressing for the job. 

That means this issue starts with Kris Anka doing his best Rob Liefeld impersonation on Chase's new Cable-tastic costume. Rainbow Rowell is in on the fun, adding the perfect deflationary counterpoint with the first word balloon: "Am I wearing a padded bra right now?"

Gert is benched after the costuming comedy is out of the way, for practical reasons that still come with an edge of cruelty. She keeps the funny going, a little, by instigating another humorous "try to feed Gib" scene, but eventually, she gravitates to monitoring the J-Team's mission with Matthew, Doc's Jarvis-Alfred analogue.

And she is frustrated to see that the new J-Team works well under Doc Justice's leadership. It's crushing for so many different reasons. Her family is succeeding without her, in circumstances that push all her buttons. Ordered around by an adult, engaging in heroics, dressing up like beautiful people.

This situation is surely the mother of all eye-rolls for Gert.

But Ms. Rowell's script digs a lot deeper into Gert besides beating her over the head with frustrating circumstances. There's also a complex take on her relationship with Victor. And she's keenly aware that her family is loving this new direction. It comes through crystal clear by the end of this issue that she's swallowing her second thoughts and trying to be supportive -- to Vic especially, but to all her friends.

Having Kris Anka back for a guest artist gig is a treat. The timing is particularly fortuitous with costume comedy playing such a large role, and he aces the dress-up portions of the issue.

In previous reviews, I've gushed over Andrés Genolet's tremendously nuanced rendering of Doc Justice. This cutaway to a different penciller -- even if it is Runaways emeritus artist Kris Anka -- just reinforces my love for Mr. Genolet's take. This Doc J is serviceable, but he doesn't have the depth and pain Mr. Genolet hid behind his eyes. And that's a tiny bit disappointing.

Dee Cunniffe assembles another sunny California palette, helped here by Jim Campbell. They build an interesting theme into the new uniforms, with most of the team getting Doc Justice's orange & seafoam green colours in reversed proportions. 

But Karolina stands out in her white and gold. What's it meeeeean?!

Rating this issue was a little challenging for me. It focuses so unflinchingly on Gert's frustration that the reading experience itself flirts with becoming frustrating. And although this "outside looking in" take on conventional superheroics is textbook Runaways, part of me was hoping that this story would take me right into the thick of the action.

The character work on Gert is done too well to rate this issue as less than great, though. It has a throbbing, painful realism that strikes a chord with anyone who's been shuttled between inclusion and exclusion. Which is pretty much everyone, right?

This isn't just about the girl with the unmarketable shape getting cut out of sexy superhero time. It's about the nerd who everybody assumes will sit out PE. It's about the jock who has to ghost through a group research project. It's about the tone-deaf guy getting dragged to another concert, the straight-edge girl who's sick of designated driving, the first-generation American kid who's going to scream if she's asked for one more "cultural FAQ" lecture.

This is about how isolation can sneak up on you even when you're surrounded by people you love -- and what could be more Runaways than that?

The Runaways' transformation into the J-Team falls into the background as this moving issue focuses empathically on the exclusion of Gert. The opening is brightly humorous and the visuals are a fine flashback to Kris Anka's past Runaways work. But Gert's frustration is infectious -- exactly as intended! -- and it casts a long shadow over the shiny happy heroics.

Our Score:


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Charles Martin's picture
I feel like the "Nico isn't comfortable in an over-sexualized costume" bit verges on "have your cake and eat it too" territory. Like the comic is saying, "We went ahead and drew it; you may enjoy it, but you also must feel ashamed of enjoying it." But on the other hand, Gert's joke about the joke costume is glorious and should be preserved at all costs.