REVIEW: Runaways #13 – “That Was Yesterday”

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RUNAWAYS #13
Writer: Rainbow Rowell
Penciller: David Lafuente
Colorist: Jim Campbell
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Price: $3.99

Release Date: 9/12/18

With first kisses to go around, the Runaways prepare to pick up the pieces of their fledgling relationships. But will they get a chance to do so before the return of Alex Wilder throws them all for a loop?

Plot: Runaways #13 reintroduces Alex Wilder, ex-leader and sometime-traitor, to the group and catches audiences up on his afterlife since dying in the first run of the comic series. He interrupts Karolina and Nico’s first kiss (can I get a heck yes for the hopefully happy couple?) to bring word of a trio of dinosaur-like creatures looking for the Pride and heading straight to the kids. The rest of the team – sans Gertrude, who remains on her time travel excursion for the majority of the issue – reluctantly team up with Alex to stop them before learning exactly who “they” are.

Story: As someone who has personally been hoping for a return of the Wilder, since it feels wrong for the Runaways to be incomplete even if he was a traitor, the ending of last month’s issue was particularly intriguing. Of course, that point of interest was heavily at odds with the other salient plot development of the previous issue, which is the culmination of Nico and Karolina’s romantic tension. Runaways #13 lets the latter fall by the wayside in order to focus on the former, and it’s too bad Rainbow Rowell doesn’t make more of an attempt to weave the two storylines together. After all, there was once something between Alex and Nico as well, even if it didn’t last. But she does mine the lack of trust between the group members and pointedly showcases Alex’s leadership skills. Even if Nico and Chase are especially angry at him, they can’t deny that organization and focus are his primary talents.

The other dangling plot thread was Gertrude and Victor’s blossoming romance, but as they were absent for the majority of Runaways #13, it wasn’t as noticeable. Instead, readers were treated to the varying reactions of other team members when it comes to Alex’s return. While Nico probably got the most focus, Molly’s joy at reuniting with her old friend was a sweet moment that shouldn’t be overlooked. She is naturally more prone to naivete because of her youth, but she’s also the shining light that reminds the other Runaways that there is still hope for everyone. Alex even made a few salient points when defending his past actions, because as awful as his behavior was it was also done out of love for his family. The question now is whether he will consider the Runaways his true family and actually stand by them this time around.

Finally, there is the Seed of the Gibborim to consider. When the series picked up with Gert’s resurrection, it felt like they were leaving the first run behind to some degree, albeit with a few emotional ties such as Molly’s grandmother. But now with the double whammy of Alex’s return and the reappearance of those connected to the Gibborim, Rowell is treading familiar ground from not only a classic comic book run but also a popular television series. While the ending of Runaways #13 doesn’t give much away, it does set a very important choice before the protagonists that will reopen old wounds and bring up the questions of how much they are like their parents and what choices they would make in similar positions. Some might find the choice to go down this narrative route trite, but I think it will lead to some exciting introspection in the issues to come – especially because Rowell has already handled several instances of emotional turmoil very well.

Art: Kris Anka’s art has been such a signature for the series that it’s a little disconcerting to see the same familiar faces rendered somewhat differently. Nevertheless, David Lafuente makes Runaways #13 his own with blockier character designs and thick lines that remind one more of cartoons. The outfits are the same for Nico and Karolina, for example, but the massive change in art style does create momentary confusion. That being said, the shift can be used to highlight how out of place Alex feels with his friends and how ill at ease they in turn feel at seeing him once more. So on a metatextual level, it works really well.

Jim Campbell’s colors are also slightly toned down from Matthew Wilson’s, but they serve infuse a touch more realism to Lafuente’s pencils. Together, the art team handles the action sequences and new villains very well even if the character visuals take some getting used to.

Verdict: Runaways #13 reads a little like an act break or intermission, at it comes at the tail-end of two important relationship developments and doubles as a recap for Alex Wilder’s life. But it hints at some very interesting story avenues and, more importantly, makes the team whole again.

Star Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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