Runaways 7: Live Fast – Brian K. Vaughan

Finally we see what this series is capable of. With the tragic events of last episode we actually get to see some real emotion and characters really growing and being challenged. You aren’t sure which way things are going to go and the twists and emotional behaviour is believable.

The side story/ monster of the week comes in the middle instead of at the beginning. So unlike other volumes you don’t get the juddering start. If only all the books could have been as engaging and intelligent as this one. And as Cameo free. Well cameo light.

The art has some great moments. There is a really cool use of lighting that ends one issue and some inspired composition on the following cover.

Double Thumbs Up!

Runaways 6: Parental Guidance – Brian K. Vaughan

At first glance the blurb on the back appears to spoil this storyline. But things are a little weirder and more convoluted than it makes out.

We open with a couple of single issue stories before we head back into the main plot. And have a trip into the past to see if any of you remember back to volume one. This book is relatively cameo light which makes a change but you are so busy looking for them it has the same effect.

There is quite an emotional punch in this part but as this is comics there is always the danger this will be undone in future.

The art is good particularly some colourful fire and explosion effects.

Thumbs Up!

Runaways 5: Escape to New York – Brian K. Vaughan

Here we have another cameo filled volume. Some are returning in an attempt to provide plot and others are here because a book full of kids couldn’t possibly have enough wisecracks right?

To be fair the emotion gets a boost with hormones and responsibilities colliding. But the whole piece feels very disjointed with two short stories butting up against each other. Vaughn realises he can put any superhero he likes this book and so the gratuitous guest stars use up page time that could and should be used on these wonderful emerging child starts.

The art is good stuff with an appropriate style for this young and energetic adventure.

Thumbs Up!

Runaways 4: True Believers – Brian K. Vaughan

Given how definitively the story ended in the last volume where do you go from here? Well you keep the team and have them help the children of other supervillains. Which means you can squeeze in more cameos!

This starts off well, is strong in terms of narrative and begins exploring some exciting themes of the toll being a young superhero (like a child actor) takes on someone. There are some nice hidden secrets that have you wanting more and then OMG what a twist. This is all great until the twist has a twist and you have five pages of talking heads to explain it all. It’s like Vaughan stepped out for coffee and the work experience kid finished off the book.
A real shame.

The art is good but a lot more muted and murky than the last volume sadly. Whatever they were doing that was good in the last book has now stopped. Although 50% of the book is at night or underground.

Thumbs Up!

Runaways 3: The Good Die Young – Brian K. Vaughan

After the shaky second volume this bursts into full bloom. With plenty of plot twists and high stakes action this is a real page turner. You know there are eleven volumes but didn’t expect this much revelation so soon. If you are unsure about whether to continue read this volume and it will either convince you to stay or provide a nice point to bow out.

The art looks much lighter and so less subdued than previous volumes. This could be a technical thing with the matt paper or it could be a change in style. In any case the art is excellent.


The pop culture references are less intrusive and you don’t even mind the cameo.

Double thumbs Up!

Runaways 2: Teenage Wasteland – Brian K. Vaughan

It’s going to be a bumpy ride. This volume introduces us to a pair of ideas that better not become trends. The first is the ‘monster of the week.’ Running away from your parents is clearly not exciting enough for the teenage reader so you need a visit from another antagonist. To be fair this one is quite unexpected and not outside of possibility for a group composed of mutants, aliens and time-travellers.

The next is the cameo. We have a one issue visit from D list heroes who may be imposed by an editor, beloved by Vaughn or simply to be the punchline for a single fourth wall break. It’s not clear and not necessary.

Otherwise the book is good with strong characters showing believable emotions. The art is great with confident layouts and as much colour as the matt paper will show off.

Thumbs Up!

Runaways 1: Pride & Joy – Brian K. Vaughan

So Brian K. Vaughan is writing Young Adult fiction set in the Marvel Universe? And it turns out he is actually rather good at it. It is paced fast enough for teenagers not to get bored but is light enough on the snarky pop culture references to be readable by anyone. As everyone was a child with weird parents once this certainly counts one of literature’s universal themes.

The art is great with plenty of youthful energy. The faces are dynamic and expressive. There is a large cast of characters but the depictions are diverse enough amongst the kids that you can pick up on who’s who. Even in digest version things don’t feel cramped. But the huge number of interior scenes and printing on matt paper stock means that the colours do feel very heavy and subdued.

With an original idea, some relatable themes and a strong ending you can easily grab part two and keep going.

Thumbs Up!

We Stand On Guard – Brian K. Vaughan

we-stand-on-guardThis is a bold and provocative piece about a future invasion of Canada by the USA. Vaughan pulls no punches in exposing America’s dirty laundry, even attacking their comic books. You can see why people got a bit annoyed.

With the politics and real world analogy, plus obscure historical/ Canadian references, in the foreground this doesn’t give a lot of time for characterisation and worldbuilding. The pacing is snappy and there are some wonderful scene changes but it is all over much too soon. We want to know more – but possibly to distract us from the hefty dose of “wake-up” Vaughn is shaming our conscience with.

The art, from acclaimed storyboard artist Steve Skroce, is excellent. It is mostly square panels but there are plenty of splash pages to make bold statements. The colouring is gorgeous and emotively intelligent too.

This is an oversized hardcover that makes a big difference to the reading/ viewing experience. There are quite a few pages of initial sketches but no form of commentary, which for a book like this would be welcome.

Definitely a Double Thumbs Up!

Midnighter: Anthem – Keith Giffen & Brian K Vaughan

Midnighter2This is an outstanding volume of two stories created by some exceptionally talented people.

The longer story concerns Midnighter trying to have a normal life and to discover who he was before Henry Bendix. A tall order. The small town he visits is great plus the evil corporate antagonist and their ensuing ideology is also well written. There is plenty of good dialogue particularly with his new sidekick and his daughter. There is also a lot of action – which you expect in a Midnighter book – that feels more of a necessary evil in the early part of the story.

Giffen does a superb job with the character but the fact the entire art team from penciller to letterer changes virtually every issue is disappointing. You do get to see a good variety of styles and effects but having your hero look different every five minutes is unacceptable.

The star of this volume and the entire series is the one-shot written by Brian K Vaughan and drawn by Darick Robertson. The art and the colours are simply breath-taking. You can tell everyone has gone above and beyond in rendering this stunning book.

The story is pretty much disposable nonsense BUT it is told backwards. Like the film Memento in a way we learn what has gone before. At first you think it is just flashbacks but then the penny drops. The sequence of pages has been reversed. What is testament to Vaughan’s genius is that you can read it in both directions. And it is very rewarding when you do.

This story is possibly the most astounding piece of creativity I have ever seen in comics. This deserves the King of All Thumbs Up!

Pride of Baghdad – Brian K. Vaughan

Inspired by the true story of four lions escaping from Baghdad zoo during the bombing of Iraqi in 2003, award winning writer Brian K. Vaughan imagines their story.

This is a fantastic story told from the animal’s point of view. Part Lion King part Watership Down you are able to make an emotional connection to these wonderful and wild creatures. There isn’t a traditional plot as such, and thankfully it doesn’t descend into an episode of Lassie, but there are a lot of subtle moral questions woven into the animal’s journey if you are inclined to spot them.

The art is an absolute joy to behold and the vibrant, natural colours are a masterpiece themselves. The animals are faithfully rendered with dynamic poses and fluid musculature yet capable of conveying primal emotions you can empathise with. This is thick book but there are much more pictures than words allowing you to drink in the setting and leisurely bask in the tangible atmosphere.

If you are so inclined you can take a very powerful message from the author, or maybe you are bringing your own. A Double Thumbs Up!


Tomorrow: Walking Dead 17: Something to Fear – Robert Kirkman