Monday, February 20, 2006

Comics Review: February 20

For this week, we've got a standalone story from Brian Vaughan in "Runaways", featuring Molly Hayes, the youngest member of the group. Molly's been a rather problematic figure from the very beginning; barely 12 when the story started, it was clear that she wasn't quite on equal ground with the other teenaged characters, and this often pushed her to the periphery of the plot; token shows of strength and comic relief aside, she's probably the least-active Runaway, ostensibly because she rarely understands what's going on - she's not stupid, but her perspective is rightly limited by her youth.

Vaughan tries to solve this problem by temporarily taking the other Runaways out of the picture - this issue focuses exclusively on Molly herself, separated from the rest of the group. She basically falls headfirst into a 21st-century version of Charles Dickens' "Oliver Twist", as she's forcibly recruited by a Fagin-esque magician into a gang of underaged thieves. Molly, sweet and naive as she is, gets in a bit over her head, and has to figure out how to escape her captor and free the other kids.

It's a very atypical "Runaways" story because it's focalized through Molly, and as such it's significantly more simplistic than the book's usual tone. There are things we, the readers, can see that she doesn't, such as the fact that the Artful Dodgers are mirrors of what Molly might have become, had she been less fortunate in running away. There's no indication that she understands this, because Molly sees everything with the eyes of a child. But that point of view is what makes the last few pages of the story all the more heartbreaking; she is a child, and she has been through a lot since she and her friends discovered the truth about the Pride. And the fact that she's managed to retain innocence in such a situation makes her all the more endearing.

Character moments aside, the plot is a bit thin, but it's the calm before the storm, as next issue promises to kickstart the New Pride subplot that's been ticking over since the relaunch began.


And this?

This is a thing of genius. Because it's probably be better than the product it's lampooning. :)