Friday, January 12, 2018

'Runaways' Isn't Excellent Yet, but It's Treading on a Promising Direction

Created by writer Brian K. Vaughan and artist Adrian Alphona in the 2000’s, the Runaways comic book series might have introduced the most groundbreaking concept for a young superhero team since the X-Men debuted in the 60’s.  It’s about six kids who discovered that their parents were secretly super villains – mob bosses, time travelers, mutants, mad scientists, dark wizards, and aliens – and their charity annual event was actually a guise for their meeting as “The Pride”, a criminal organization that reigned over Los Angeles’ underworld.  Armed with the skills and powers they inherited from their parents, they banded together to fight their parents.

Their unique origin and their initial arc made them one of my favorite ensembles.  And I’ve always thought that adapting them and their story into live-action would be awesome.  I would have preferred an MCU feature film.  But if a TV series on Hulu is the best Marvel can offer, then I’ll take it.  It turned out being good anyway.
Now, I don’t think Hulu’s Runaways is excellent.  A part of me is annoyed that much of its comic book elements are lost.  But dang me if it isn’t intriguing.  The slow-paced, ten-episode debut season hasn’t quite justified the departures or reimaginings that it has done.  However, in its crevices, it’s emitting a compelling impression that it’s building up toward something explosive and worthwhile in the future.  That’s why it still managed to get into my “top 20 TV shows of 2017” list.

The teenage heroes discover their parents’ secret in episode one.  But it took until episode ten before they have truly become “runaways.”  The slow pace of the season isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it provides ample room to develop the six main characters as individuals and as a team in a satisfying, detailed manner.  In addition, there’s room enough to flesh the parents out as well, and they are portrayed to be more three-dimensional and sympathetic than their straight-up-evil comic book counterparts.
I have a couple of peeves with the show, but my biggest problem is with the characterization of Alex Wilder.  In the comics, though he didn’t have a particular superpower or special weapon (like Chase Stein’s fistiguns), he held his own and was a convincing leader because he was prominently portrayed as a child prodigy in the areas of logic and strategy.  Live-action Alex is not extraordinarily intelligent, making him the weak link in the midst of his friends, who each has his or her own distinctive shtick.  In addition, if his arc will reflect the source material, then establishing him as tactical leader is necessary for the twist to have more impact.  I hope this gets addressed next season.

Runaways isn’t perfect.  It’s far from being as refreshingly appealing and revolutionary as its superior source material.  It isn’t notably delightful.  Its parts don’t always work.  But the general direction it’s treading is promising enough to give hope that it will be triumphant with this take.

Well, let’s see if that is so in season 2.

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