Runaways (vol. 1), Brian K. Vaughn and Adrian Adolpha

Runaways has been sounding wonderful to me for a while now. It’s a comic book about a group of kids whose parents turn out to be supervillains. The kids witness their parents sacrificing a young woman; duly horrified, they run away from home. Their parents are supervillains and they all run away! Supervillains! Their parents are supervillains! As premises for comic books go, this is a fun one. With runaway children, and parents that are supervillains. It was adorable and charming in many ways.

I am sitting here heaving huge sighs of unhappiness, because I wanted to and in many ways did like this book. It made reference to The Prisoner. The kids all have different powers and do different things. I think it’s possible that if I had read this book in single issues, one at a time over several weeks, rather than in a big compendium of the whole run of comics, the problem that bothered the crap out of me would have bothered me less. But I didn’t do that. I read it all in one day, on the drive to and then back from visiting my grandmother.

Briefly, what stopped me enjoying Runaways was race stuff. I wasn’t happy with the portrayal of the only set of black parents. I’m about to spoil a whole bunch of things about this volume of the series, so if you don’t want to know, stop reading. Fairly enormous spoilers follow.

First of all, there are twelve parents, but the guy to shank the poor, innocent, teenage girl at the beginning is the black father. Then it’s the black mother who shoots the cop nonfatally, and subsequently, when the cop gets shot fatally, guess who does it? The black father! Oh, yeah, and check out the backstory. All the parents were engaged in their various activities when they were summoned by the Super Evil Evil People, who then set them on the path to supervillainy. One set of parents were scientists, one time-travellers, one mutants being persecuted, one aliens checking out the earth, and one magicians. Guess what the black parents were doing before they became supervillains? They were petty thieves! They robbed people with guns! That’s what they did before they became supervillains. Nice, eh?

Oh, but wait, I am not quite done. Hold for the really huge spoilers. When the book starts, and the kids are first running away, the parents get a note that basically says Dear parents, I still love and trust you and will tell you where we are soon; and then throughout the book you are always wondering who the mole is. Personally, I was hoping that the note was part of a cleverly masterminded plan to fool the parents. I was hoping that, and ignoring evidence to the contrary, because–why? Because I didn’t want the mole to be the one of the kids never really under serious suspicion of being the mole. But it was. It was the black kid. Who then dies in the final battle.

In short, the black characters seemed disproportionately criminal and wicked compared to the others, without any real plot reason for them to be that way. And the longer the book went on, and the more I wanted to find it fun and awesome, the more I felt I could not find it fun and awesome because I was so uncomfortable with the race stuff. Frown.