REVIEW: Runaways #10 – “Abigail in Wonderland”

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RUNAWAYS #10
Writer: Rainbow Rowell
Penciller: Kris Anka
Colorist: Matthew Wilson
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Price: $4.99

Release Date: 6/20/18

After Karolina’s girlfriend Julie Power came to visit, a series of romantic disappointments lead to her eating the enchanted cupcake that Molly’s friend Abigail gave her. Yes, that cupcake, the one meant to keep Molly a child forever. So what does that mean for Julie? Let’s find out…

Plot: Faced with a newly thirteen-year old (ex?) girlfriend and the threat of the Avengers giving her a dressing down, Karolina gets Molly to confess the live-forever cupcake ploy. With that information in hand, the Runaways set out to confront Abigail and get her to reverse the process.

Story: Runaways #10 opens with a flashback that reveals just how Abigail acquired her cupcake of youth, featuring a well-placed cameo from the Enchantress Amora. Given how utterly creepy Abigail has been up to now, and how her plan has now affected Julie so adversely, it’s a good thing that Rowell inserted her backstory so easily on in the issue. This allows us to put her behavior in perspective and understand her pain a little more – it doesn’t excuse her choices, but it does help explain them. The audience is also privy to the face that the cupcake has antidote from the opening questions, so there isn’t as much concern for Julie’s fate as there is for the emotional fallout amongst the Runaways themselves.

Speaking of emotional fallout, Molly has perhaps the most to grapple with in Runaways #10. Even as Karolina faces a sudden dumping, her thoughts are consumed in the moment by rectifying the situation and de-escalating conflict. Meanwhile, Molly is the one who has to fess up to the secrets she’s been keeping from her friends who are as close as family. Not to mention that she must wrestle with the thought that her best friend forever isn’t, and that furthermore Abigail was only thinking of herself when she made her poisoned offer.

But it’s not all introspection and regret, as there is a fun fight sequence with Abigail herself that’s full of surprises and referential humor. There is a definite reversal of expectations for the group from when they first meet their tiny enemy to when they’re actually facing off against her, and even though it’s somewhat expected for the audience it still elicits a few chuckles. What’s not expected, though, is their eventual method of curing Julie at Abigail’s expense. And that is where I have my one quibble with the issue: despite paying lip service to the ethical dilemma of leaving Abigail a teen forever in order to restore Julie’s adulthood, Gert simply removes the choice and hands the bottle over to Julie. It’s strange that the team wouldn’t even try to come up with another solution – after all, Abigail ate a cupcake and still had one to give to Molly fifty years later, so couldn’t the antidote be duplicated in some way as well? The story ends with some faces deep in thought and a little guilt, but it still feels like the conundrum was glossed over in favor of storytelling expediency.

Art: Every aspect of Runaways #10 is lovingly crafted, starting with the cover’s pitch-perfect Alice in Wonderland allusion and resonating throughout the storyline. As usual, the art team knocks it out of the park and gives the series a distinctive aesthetic that’s both recognizable and wholly its own. One thing this issue in particular does remarkably well is let the backgrounds fade to, well, the background. Anka focuses on close-ups of various characters, capturing their realistic confusion and turmoil with impressive attention to detail, and Wilson fills the rest of the space with solid yet muted colors. The effect is subtle yet dramatic, creating a tunnel vision that mirrors what Karolina, Julie and Molly are all feeling.

Of course, that’s not to say that there aren’t panels in which the location and therefore the background become prevalent. The artists are well aware that readers need to familiarize themselves with new environments in order to visualize the action later, so they are sure to flesh out Abigail’s home as soon as the Runaways enter it. And as arresting as the stillness of the majority of Runaways #10 is, the moments where the characters spring into action stand out even more. Caramagna gets to have some fun with the letters during the Abigail blowout especially, and the colors brighten during that sequence as if foretelling that this will be the last time the friends enjoy themselves for a bit.

Verdict: Runaways #10 is an emotional rollercoaster in the best way, confirming that Rainbow Rowell has a grasp on the story and its themes with only a few moral missteps. The art from Anka and Wilson further adds to the book’s appeal, helping to create three-dimensional characters whose lives it’s easy to invest in.

Star Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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