Saturday, 27 February 2016

Runaways: Battleworld by Noelle Stevenson and Sanford Greene

Runaways: Battleworld written by Noelle Stevenson and illustrated by Sanford Greene is another one of those one-off Secret Wars stories. It's pretty good, aside from the whole Secret Wars, Doomworld, etc aspects. I think I reached a zen state of accepting that I'm never going to understand the worldbuilding and taking the story as it came. The volume collects all of the Secret Wars Runaways run (issues #1–4) and Secret Wars: Secret Love #1, which is a one-off comic containing five short stories. It was weird but also pretty great.

The best and brightest teens from all corners of Battleworld are chosen to attend a prestigious school on the planet's capital! But what does the new class do when they discover the school's beloved headmaster is actually a diabolical super villain? RUN AWAY! A SECRET WARS story like none other from the remarkable minds of Noelle Stevenson (Lumberjanes) and Sanford Greene (UNCANNY AVENGERS)!

The premise here is: there's a school in Doomworld/Battleworld/whatever, run by Doom's daughter (who's like 10?) that teaches gifted kids to be doom soldiers. The school is obviously evil, which the main kids work out early on in the story. No points for guessing what they do about it (hint: look at the title).

The main thing to like here are the characters. They were all pretty great. The only cross-over from the original Runaways is Molly, the rest are newish as far as I can tell. I liked the new, younger, Cloak and Dagger siblings, power-flipped so that the girl is Cloak (and OMG wears actual clothes!) and the boy is Dagger. I also liked Amadeus Cho, who I know from other sources goes on to become the Totally Awesome Hulk, but in this is just the super-smart kid. Teenage Bucky Barnes (complete with metal arm) also features in this story, though quite why remains a mystery. There was also a reprogrammed Doom-bot head that named itself Emily, which I couldn't help but adore.

The story is a pretty standard "school is evil, we should probably do something about that" kind of spiel, but works because of the character interactions. I would, in general, be interested in reading more about pretty much all of these characters (other than the more evilish ones), but I'm not sure where that may happen (other than for Cho). If you know more, please tell me in the comments!

I also want to talk specifically about each story in the bonus Secret Wars: Secret Love issue, because they are deserving of individual comment:
  • "Guilty Pleasure" was about Daredevil, told from the point of view of his wife, Karen. It wasn't terrible, but I didn't love it, mainly because the premise was Karen being jealous/paranoid that Matt was cheating on her with an ex. I especially didn't like the art style, which was kind of retro. 
  • "Fan of a Fan" was short and sweet, about Ms Marvel/Kamala fan-girling over some guy I'd never heard of, and also rescuing him. Can't not like Kamala. (Except maybe in the hilariously dramatic retro cover of this issue, which, um.)
  • "Misty and Danny Forever" was about Misty Knight and Iron Fist (OMG I hope Misty Knight is in the Netflix show!) working through relationship issues of the we-have-kids-now variety. Also featuring Jessica Jones and Nick Cage. And a dinosaur. Not a bad read.
  • "Squirrel Girl Wins a Date With Thor" was so the best of these stories. The art was awesome, Squirrel Girl is always awesome, I loved the cameos on the dance floor of basically all the cool superheroes and lol when she tore the front of Odinson's shirt off to put out a fire and then poked his abs. Also! Carriage drawn by giant squirrels. Such awesome in this short.
  • "Happy Ant-iversary" was pretty weird. It was several of the Marvel characters re-imagined as insects in Bug-World while Ant-Man (?) sends the Wasp (?) on a scavenger hunt. It was cute and had some terrible/hilarious jokes and did make me laugh... but was also too weird for me to want to read more of the same (unlike the previous three stories). On the other hand, Black-Widow, Moth-Eye and Pizza Bug were gold.
I kind of liked the bonus issue more than the comic I set out to buy... Oh well.

I kind of recommend this volume. If you are OK with all the Secret Wars stuff and/or are willing to ignore the confusion of the worldbuilding, then this isn't a bad read. I would go so far as to say the worldbuilding was less relevant and confusing than, say, in Captain Marvel and Carol Corps. It's also not that similar to the original Runaways, except thematically. Do not go into this story expecting a sequel. It's probably best to think of it as a once off thing in a parallel universe of something?

4 / 5 stars

First published: 2015, Marvel
Series: Kind of? This volume is quite self-contained and bears little relation to the larger earlier Runaways stories. Like, they only have one character in common.
Format read: Trade paperback
Source: A non-Amazon online book shop

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