Runaways No. 18 review: Last stand against the Gibborim

Things have come full circle for the Runaways and the Gibborim! Will things end the same way?

Runaways No. 18

Writer: Rainbow Rowell

Artist: Kris Anka

Colorist: Matthew Wilson

The last time the Runaways battled the Gibborim, it defined the end of their first volume. They’d discovered that their parents had organized “the Pride” to earn power for themselves at the price of the world (and many sacrificed souls). Their rebellion against their super-villain parents became open, until Alex Wilder betrayed them all to plead fealty to the gods. Their parents, the Gibborim, and Alex all seemingly died that day, and the Runaways were never the same. Now Wilder is back, the Gibborim’s offspring have made a similar offer, and things have come full circle. The Runaways once again stand against them.

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The Gibborim children had demanded the Runaways complete the “Rite of Thunder” their godly parents left unfinished, which meant a sacrificed soul. Doing so would allow the godlings to take over the world — and refusal would mean certain death for the Runaways. They all debated what to do, with Wilder, as usual, demanding the most extreme plans. Yet in making their offer, the Gibborim left one of their own, Gib, among them. Alex Wilder, seeing no way out for them, has decided to sacrifice Victor Mancha to both save themselves and gain power.

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When Is a Win Not Really a Win?

Alex Wilder had originally planned to kill Gib to complete the Rite, a plan which divided the team. Yet when Gib actively turned against his siblings (Bo and Rim), Chase Stein thought victory was possible. He and Nico Minoru led a fight against the two demigods, which ended in a swift defeat. Now Alex has chosen Victor as his hostage and begins negotiating the rite with Bo and Rim. Considering Victor’s history with Ultron and Alex’s lack of attachment, he seems expendable.

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At worst, Alex Wilder has once again betrayed the team — despite the fact that few aside for Molly Hayes genuinely trusted him. Victor is not only a loyal member of the team, he’s also Gert’s current boyfriend. Yet at best, he has stalled Bo and Rim from killing the Runaways in order to negotiate with him. Gib continues to plead for mercy to the humans, but his siblings aren’t interested. Left with no one else to save the day, it’s up to Gertrude Yorkes to save the day!

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As usual for the Runaways, their “victory” still feels like delaying the inevitable. They often rely on a dash of luck and a heap of reckless actions. Left with no other options besides a remote controlled time machine, Gert literally blasts Bo and Rim into the next millennium. Cynically believing humanity “won’t last a thousand years,” Gert presumes she’s sentenced them to a dead world without souls to feed on. It’s literally a one shot tactic which won’t work ever again!

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Someone Cue the Incredible Hulk’s Lonely Man Theme!

On the bright side, as Karolina Dean breathlessly exclaims, nobody has died. On the darker side, clear divisions have taken root within the team. Alex Wilder, once again, has stood as a traitor, willing to kill one of his own team if necessary. As Nico points out, true leadership is about sacrificing oneself, not others. Considering her brief tenure on A-Force and her experiencing She-Hulk and Captain Marvel live up to such ideals, it’s no surprise that some of that stuck with her.

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Gib has also been left behind, mourning his siblings and is now officially the last of his kind. Having been the offspring to evil parents, Gib is, ironically, a fitting member of the team. Speaking of fitting members of the team, the entire group dashes off upon hearing that Gib had critically “damaged” Doombot. Victor’s pal and former Avenger (seriously) has quickly endeared himself more to the team in a few issues than Alex Wilder has in years. He likely takes that personally.

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Ironically, while Alex Wilder burnt out what little goodwill he had with the team by threatening Victor, it’s Gert who comes the closest to defending him. Unlike Nico and even Chase, she remains a tad morally ambiguous, or at least flexible. She credits Alex for at least having some sort of plan, terrible that it was, and the hypocrisy of the rest of the team being willing to kill Gib for a moment. As Chase and Victor plot to rebuild Doombot, Alex has hit the road. But lo, he’s hardly alone!

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Every Character Has a Tale to Tell!

Rainbow Rowell has reached the year-and-a-half mark on this volume of Runaways, which is a commendable feat these days. As mentioned previously, out of all the writers who have handled the franchise since co-creator Brian K. Vaughan left, she’s done the best to mirror the voice for the cast and franchise that he had. The Runaways have never been about good and evil, but shades of grey. They’re a gaggle of powerful and awkward teens trying to make their way in a fantastic and bizarre superhero world, with fewer resources and allies than even the X-Men typically enjoy.

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Much like the classic New Mutants, the Runaways often focus more on their emotional interactions and moral dilemmas more than actual fighting. They rely more on lick and snap decisions than tactics when it counts. And while that may have frustrated Lightspeed or irritated most of the adult superheroes they meet, it tends to work for them. Rowell does a terrific job of getting into the mind of each character and presenting their point of view. Even poor Gib.

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After all, Nico and Chase aren’t wrong that Alex Wilder always betrays them for his own self interests. Even the narration admits that Wilder sees the team as “his to betray,” or manipulate. Yet Alex isn’t wrong about the team lacking structure or much focus without him, despite Nico’s stint on a legitimate superhero team. Even Gert acknowledges that Alex is a wild card who has saved their lives more than once. And for the first time, Victor laments not having a more capable robot body — which hints that his path to becoming the Ultron controlled “Victorious” still exists.

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Hardly a Comic to Run Away From!

Kris Anka once again demonstrates why he is among the best in the business with this gig. Matched with Matthew Wilson’s colors, he captures the high energy of the battles as well as the emotional complexity of his cast. He uses only a few simple lines, but they’re always well placed. Anka also has a great eye for the unique fashion tastes of the team, from Nico’s wardrobe to Molly’s hats. Doombot has benefited greatly from the redesign. This has definitely been the work of his career so far.

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As such, it is a shame that this will be his last issue — at least as regular artist. Anka will still do covers for a bit, and the editors leave the door open for a guest issue down the line. He’s due to be replaced next issue by Andres Genolet, who was last seen drawing Spider-Girls. Genolet is a fine choice, who was able to capture all of the unique costumes of the Spider-Girls as well as the 19th-century fashion tastes of the Inheritors. Still, Anka drew 16 out of 18 issues, and it was a great run.

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Next: Alex Wilder Pushes the Envelope in No. 17!

This wasn’t just a culmination of what has been six issues of conflict. It is a catalyst which will lead the team for this volume’s next, and possibly final, arc. It seems like Doombot and Gib will be regulars on the team, which will mix up the dynamic and add to their power levels. As to which Runaways tagged along after Alex, it’s easy to assume it was Molly. She was the only one who had the rosiest opinion of Alex, especially since they played trading card games together. She’s also on the cover of the next issue! Marvel’s original “sleeper” title of the 21st century is back with a vengeance, and hasn’t been better in over a decade. Great things do come to fans who wait.