The Runaways decide it’s time for a change of scenery, so they hop from LA to NYC. But after their run-ins with adult superheroes, they could use a hand staying off of everyone’s radar. Who better to ask for a favor than the Kingpin? Posing as agents of the Pride, they make their request, and he agrees—for a price. They have to steal something for one of his clients; suffice it to say, this goes poorly, and they wind up in the early 1900s. As it turns out, the secret superhero and supervillain communities of last century’s New York are just as rife with drama and infighting as today’s.
Taking over the series from its original creators is a tall order, and Whedon’s success in doing so is mixed. On the one hand, he writes the kids’ individual voices well, especially Nico’s and Molly’s. But on the other hand, the relationships between them suffer from a meanness in some cases, especially where Xavin is involved: the antagonism between Chase and Xavin feels transphobic, and Karolina and Xavin’s relationship feels suddenly more dysfunctional than in previous arcs. And while Whedon does bring some interesting ideas to the table, an overly complex story with a dozen or so new characters chokes those ideas and keeps them from ever really growing. Even when he takes time to focus on the treatment of young women in the early 1900s, those ideas feel underdeveloped, and consequently fridgey. Plus, early joking by characters on the team about She-Hulk’s appearance and how fake her breasts look makes it hard to take comments on treating women like objects seriously.
More successful is Ryan, Ketcham, Strain, and company’s art. While similar enough to Alphona’s and Miyazawa’s styles to not be distracting, bustling scenes in historical New York and beautifully detailed period garb give the new members of the team a chance to make their mark. Some of the book’s visual consistency is also due to Strain’s continued work as the title’s colorist.
If you’ve been reading Runaways and want a clear answer about whether or not you should stick with it beyond the creative team change, I have bad news for you: there isn’t one. If you’ve been reading it for the characters individually, you’ll be fine as long as your enjoyment doesn’t hang on Xavin. If what you liked about the preceding issues was their focus on relationship over plot, then you’ll have a harder time with this arc. Complication and contrivance drive the story, and Whedon gets in his own way in the process. “Dead End Kids” is far from all bad, but it isn’t essential Runaways reading.
Runaways, Vol. 8: Dead End Kids (#25-30)
Runaways: The Complete Collection, Vol. 3 (#19-30, Civil War: Young Avengers & Runaways #1-4, Secret Invasion: Runaways/Young Avengers #1-3)
Writer: Joss Whedon | Penciller: Michael Ryan | Inkers: Rick Ketcham with Jay Leisten, Andrew Hennessy, Victor Olazaba, and Roland Paris | Colorist: Christina Strain | Letterers: VC’s Randy Gentile, Joe Caramagna, Cory Petit | Covers: Jo Chen | Assistant Editor: Daniel Ketchum | Editor: Nick Lowe