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Run, Run, Run, Run, Runaways!

May 19th, 2008     by Tiina Johns     Comments

jo chen

Ever thought your parents were evil? Ever feel like you were raised by super villains?

Playing on suspicions we all might’ve had about our families at some point, the kids in Runaways discover that their parents are part of an association of the most powerful super villains in LA. They band together against their parents (and other bad guys) and run away to make up for the destruction their parents have caused. Runaways is a monthly series (one issue comes out each month, they’re later collected into books), put out by Marvel comics. It’s a mainstream comics series, but it has some of the most inclusive representations and stories of any comic series.

For example, Runaways features some of the best female characters in comics. There’s Nico, who learns her parents’ magic, becomes a wizard and eventully becomes the leader of the team. Karolina, who realizes she’s both an alien and queer. Gert, smart and sardonic, who would probably read Shameless, and has a psychic connection with a razor-toothed dinosaur. The youngest member of the team, Molly, is also the strongest. She’s a mutant and can beat up just about anyone.

The Runaways kids are diverse in gender, race, sexuality and even body types. Writer Brian K. Vaughn does an amazing job of having diverse representations without having any token characters. The kids talk about race, and sexuality (it’s part of who they are) but it’s only one part of their complex characters.

Like all good, long-running series (it’s been coming out since 2003), the characters evolve. New folks have joined the team and others have left.

One of my favourite scenes in the series involves a newer character, Xavin and the beginning of Karolina and Xavin’s relationship. Karolina is a sort of hippie girl raised in LA, who finds out she’s an alien. Xavin is introduced when he comes to earth to tell Karolina that she has to marry him. Xavin, is a skrull - a shape shifting race of aliens that have been a mainstay in Marvel’s comics for decades.

Xavin tells Karolina that the skrulls and Karolina’s alien people have been at war for years as a result of her parents’ deeds, but a marriage between them could bring peace between their two peoples. Karolina shyly tells Xavin, in front of her whole team, that she can’t marry him because she likes girls. Xavin then explains as a shape shifter, skrulls can easily change their gender, and Xavin morphs into a pretty lady. Karolina agrees to go with Xavin and try to make peace on their planets.

It’s a really awesome, moving moment.

Skrulls have been part of Marvel comics for years, but in Runaways, Xavin’s shape shifting shows the fluidity of gender. Currently in the series, Xavin and Karolina are still together. Xavin shape shifts into a different gender sometimes for tactical reasons, but she tends to stay female to please Karolina. Their relationship really shows the complexities of gender and transgender identities and the complexities of queer relationships.

And all this happens in a super cute, super fun, hilarious and action-packed comic series. Did I mention that?

Amazingly enough, this awesome series totally suitable for younger readers. It’s aimed at 12 and up, and its piece of fiction that doesn’t talk down to kids (and adults!), but challenges them instead.

At its core, Runaways is about questioning authority. It’s about building new relationships, new roles and new worlds, when the other ones don’t work.

There are tonnes of other awesome moments in Runaways. Has anyone else read this and want to share some favourite parts?

Tags: bibliothèque, comics are for everybody, queeriosities

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