Sunday, January 22, 2006

Comics Review: January 22

Runaways: East Coast/West Coast (9-12)

After a mildly disappointing two-parter, Brian Vaughan bounces back with yet another excellent arc of "Runaways". Having been framed for assaulting his partner Dagger, Cloak flees New York and recruits the Runaways (with whom he has a history, as seen in the previous series) to help clear him. Meanwhile, the New Avengers search for Cloak, paving the way for an inevitable meeting with our teen protagonists.

"East Coast/West Coast" has it all, really. The Runaways interact with the larger Marvel Universe - in the hands of a lesser writer, this might have diluted the story, but Vaughan knows exactly what he's doing and actually uses the New Avengers to great effect: Molly finally gets to meet Wolverine in an absolutely adorable pair of scenes, Gert and Victor have sushi with Spider-Man (who was, after all, the second teen hero to appear in the MU after Bucky), etc.

It works. It really works. Vaughan's characterization of the New Avengers, particularly Spider-Man, is spot-on, and at the same time he never loses sight of his main characters: we see how Molly feels about her "team", Nico's still a little confused over Karolina's departure, and Chase exposes a darker side to his personality.

There's comedy, there's drama, there's mystery... one of the best books Marvel's putting out right now.


Legion of Superheroes #13

The conclusion of Waid's first maxi-arc, conversely, does not work.

The problem is simply one of space: having devoted entire issues to the Legion's battle against Lemnos' forces, Waid fails to develop certain characters sufficiently. So when said characters have a change of heart and turn the tide of the battle, it falls flat because we haven't seen any reason why they'd switch sides. They deliver exposition explaining their motives, but that's something we needed to know when these people were introduced - as it's written, it pretty much comes out of the blue, and consequently fails to convince me that this is anything more than a deus ex machina. This isn't the first time Waid fell into such a trap - last issue also featured several plot twists which turned up without being properly established (ie: Projectra's magical powers, which she probably knew she was going to inherit but never mentions until the plot requires their use).

It's a pity, really, because a lot hinges on this issue: a Legionnaire quits the team, Brainiac has hatched another plot behind his teammates' backs, and the Legion win their first major victory, essentially saving the entire galaxy. But these elements all turn upon contrivance, and most of the story's strength is lost as a result.

I'm not quite sure why this series is faltering now, considering its early issues were quite good and Waid is hardly a slouch in the writing department. Then again, I do recall feeling increasingly disappointed with his run of "Fantastic Four" towards the end (that penultimate Galactus story started out very well and took an abrupt nosedive), so maybe that's just how things go with him.