1:45 pm EDT, November 1, 2017

Marvel’s ‘Runaways’ review: A spiked milkshake of a show for comic fans and newbies alike

We had the opportunity to check out the first four episodes of Runaways ahead of its premiere. And we did our review… with a twist.

Runaways may not be as popular amongst Marvel fans as some of the more staple series that have already been adapted, but it always seemed to be one that was a perfect candidate. Indeed, it has been on the table at Marvel since before Iron Man took the world by storm, so it really has been a long time coming, in some respects.

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But while Runaways, for those familiar with the title, has its fans, for many it is going to be something entirely new to them. Which is why, when it came to our review, we decided to come at it from both angles.

So whether you’re a newcomer to the story, or have been a fan for years, we’ve got you covered. You can check out the recent trailer below, and then move on to our respective reviews.

Donya — A ‘Runaways’ superfan

If you’ve been a semi-frequent listener of Hero Hype, or have even taken a glance at some of my previous Runaways articles, then it’ll come as no surprise that I’ve been anticipating this particular Marvel adaptation for a long, long time.

Almost a decade, in fact.

That might be a lot of pressure, and expectation, to place on a show in its freshman season, but for those of us who were fans of the original Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona comics, Runaways has always been more than the stereotypical teen drama it appears on the surface.

And so, when Hulu offered up the chance to get an early glimpse at the first four episodes, I was both unbearably excited and excruciatingly nervous.

Would the complicated, messy, yet beautiful characters I’d poured over on the pages of Runaways all those years ago translate well to the small screen? Would something get lost along the way, in boiling the series down to its essential components?

The answer was, thankfully, no.

Though it deviates in ways that were entirely surprising as a fan, they made the series itself richer, more dynamic, yet still felt like the Runaways I’d fallen desperately in love with from the moment I’d cracked open the first issue. Those changes, in fact, elevated the show to new highs, keeping the central mystery we already know intact, but with something a little extra thrown in to keep long-time fans guessing.

Yes, Molly may now be the adopted sister of Gert, but that added an additional layer of complication to her burgeoning powers — as well as the mystery of just what happened to her parents. There’s also an additional member of the Minoru family, one that appears to have been the catalyst for the estranged relationship between all the teens, rather then relying solely on their parents for that fractured core.

Having more history, more depth, to those friendships made everything all the more enticing. Not to mention how they’ve incorporated the Gibborim into the show.

Watching those episodes unfold on screen, I knew so much, and yet so little about where it was going, and it felt as though I was experiencing Runaways for the first time all over again. Capturing that unique sensation in an adaptation is almost an impossible feat, and yet Hulu have achieved it with what seems like relative ease.

In part, that can likely be attributed to the stellar cast that they have on board. Not only are each of the teenagers, so vitally important to the story, bewitching in their respective roles, but the dual focus on the parents — something that wasn’t as easily possible to achieve in the comics — provides a perspective that plays a tug-of-war with your own morality.

It’s a carefully crafted balancing act that, over the course of the four episodes provided, was damn near perfect.

Rest assured, all the staples you’d want as a Runaways fan are there: From the powers, the complex relationships between the kids, the parents, and everyone in between, Old Lace, and glimpses at items we know are about to play a huge part in the story left to unfold.

With some — in my personal opinion — recent missteps in the Marvel television landscape leaving me ever more wary about the upcoming shows, Runaways was a balm. It is, perhaps, one of my favorites out of all of the shows to hit the small screen thus far, and I’m eager to see where they’ll take it next.

The groundwork has been laid to make this show a resounding success. Now they just need to execute it.

And I have every faith that they will.

Michal — A ‘Runaways’ newbie

Having graduated from teen-centric dramas in the days of The OC, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first looked into Marvel’s Runaways. I knew that the comic was beloved, and I was intrigued to see how Marvel would translate to Hulu’s sensibilities. But I’ll admit that the youthful energy of the show, and my loose understanding of the Evil Parent premise, left me slightly skeptical as to its depth.

I needn’t have worried. Watching Runaways is like drinking a milkshake laced with vodka — luxurious sweetness married to breathtaking bite.

Equal parts frothy teen dramedy and Kubrickian nightmare, Marvel’s Runaways embraces its own strangeness with an almost childlike zeal. The show is a palate of enthusiastic contrasts — grief and fractured families play against the sun-drenched vistas of Southern California, and bright-eyed teenaged rationality collides with black-hole secrets. Much like its characters, Runaways maintains a slick patina of normalcy, but it is most alive when the weirdness awakens.

For example, there is literally a dinosaur.

That delightful, wholehearted weirdness is part of what allows Runaways to succeed in the realm of emotional storytelling. The show may rely on the artistry of occasionally cynical contrasts, but its purpose is one of connection. As Runaways begins, painful history has diluted the bonds of friendship between the show’s six (tremendously appealing) protagonists. Superficial social differences have grown up among them, and still-fresh traumas have turned confidants into strangers.

But Runaways is not here to validate the self-inflicted stereotypes of its young cast. Karolina may be a princess and Gert a rebel, Chase a jock and Alex a nerd, Nico a goth and Molly an angel, but nevertheless, a palpable — if atrophied — bond of friendship exists between them all.

Coaxing life back into this bond is one of Runaway’s most essential concerns. It is an appreciably slow but compelling process, enacted successfully because the series never mistakes its teenaged protagonists for adults. Yes, they are tech-savvy and capable, and yes, their wit is razor-sharp. But it’s the second half — the darker and stranger parental half — of this story where the grownups come to play.

It must be said that this side of the story is where new viewers may find Runaways a bit harder to grasp. Five sets of parents represent six children (thanks to one adoption that takes place under mysterious circumstances) which swells the cast to a somewhat challenging size. Each parental unit comes with enough baggage to fill an airplane, much of which remains as opaque to the audience as it does to their rapidly enlightened children.

The first two episodes of Runaways are particularly dense with information and upended assumptions, making newbie viewing more of an effort than I assume it will be for fans of the comic.

Still, the Evil Parent element that concerned me going in was hardly an issue. In spite of the pretty evident badness of the Pride and their plans, Runaways is clearly not interested in limiting itself to just one perspective. The show invests generous time in elucidating the personalities (if not the mysteries) on the parental side, and develops increasing nuance in the organization as the episodes progress.

Overall, despite my reservations, I came away from the first four episodes of Marvel’s Runaways feeling both deeply charmed and — to put it inelegantly — pretty freaked out. This spiked milkshake of a show is one surprise after another, a tantalizing exercise in friendly wickedness that leaves me breathless and bewildered… and more than a little bit thirsty to continue this wild adventure.

Will you be checking out ‘Runaways’ when it comes to Hulu, November 21?

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