"Runaways," from its inception, has always been one of the most classically "Marvel" concepts to come from the publisher in the modern era. It's so simple, you're amazed it took someone this long to come up with it. "What if you woke up one day and found out your parents really were evil?" Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona created a team of believable and engaging teenagers on the run from pretty much everyone. And then they left. Teams that followed their run were frequently competent, but failed to capture that perfect, dangling-off-the-cusp-of-adolescence tone. Kathryn Immonen, in her first issue on the series, jumps right into it perfectly. Along with pitch perfect art by Sara Pichelli and an all female production staff with Christina Strain on colors and Audra Eliopoulos (doing her best to make lowercase lettering not be the most terrible idea in Marvel history) on letters, it's almost as if Vaughan and Alphona's final issue had only just come out thirty days ago.
The only stumbling block here is that it hasn't. While in many ways, this book signals a fresh and captivating new start, it is in need of a bit more detailed recap for newer readers. I'm sure I'm not the only "Runaways" fan who drifted away from the series as it shifted through several gears and then was drawn back to the book by a clearly visible return to classic form. Unfortunately, there are new pro- and antagonists whose origins and stories are a total mystery to me. It doesn't render the book unintelligible, however. There's a new Runaway, she has botanical powers and is a bit of an introvert. There's a strange guy who's really upset at them. Not exactly Jay Gatsby levels of complication, but a bit more detail at some point would have been nice. Sure, this wasn't a number one, or any kind of significant rebranding, but Immonen and Pichelli clearly have their own voice on this series, one that could appeal to a much different audience than previous teams on the book might have.
That being said, there's more than enough fantastic material to keep one charmed and engaged. Immonen writes fantastic kids, in a voice and approach that is aware of youth culture without that reek of creepy or awkward curiosity that betrays a lack of any genuine familiarity with the way kids think nowadays. It just feels authentic. Storywise, much is made of the death and rebirth at the center of this storyline, and long time fans will find themselves utterly crushed by the end of the issue. We'll see how it all shakes out, but as sudden as the loss is, it doesn't feel gimmicky, just heartbreaking.
Adrian Alphona was a stunning talent to watch evolve over the course of his and Vaughan's run, and the work of Sara Pichelli that's shown here looks just as promising, if not moreso, buoyed by the fantastic and seamlessly integrated color work of Christina Strain. Pichelli combines Alphona's line with Joshua Middleton's ethereal sense of design to create a phenomenally suitable look for the comic.
With very little fanfare, no new #1 (or even a proper catch-up recap page), Kathryn Immonen and Sara Pichelli have completely reinvigorated and recaptured "Runaways," bringing it closer to its core simplicity and charm than it's been in a very long time. It's also refreshing to note that what started years ago as a book driven by the decidedly male angst of characters like Alex and under the creative guidance of two (albeit exceedingly talented and insightful) men, is now being created completely by women. Their take on the team (which is currently a bit lopsidedly female anyway) and driven primarily by the female perspective of adolescence, is on every level a welcome change, and a marvelous breath of fresh air.