The second hardcover collection of RUNAWAYS covers the first twelve issues in the title's 2nd run + the Free Comic Book Day giveaway "X-men Runaways". There are two main story-arcs included here, unfortunately both are much weaker than the original comic.
In the first arc, the Runaways find themselves up against "Excelsior", a group of reformed teenage super-heroes who never amounted to much. This motley crew of has-beens wants to save the Runaways from lives of underage vigilante justice and inevitable super-hero mediocrity... sort of like super-hero-social-workers. While Excelsior tries to reform the kids, Gert appears from the future to warn of the rise of the super villain "Victorious". In the future, Victorious destroys just about every super hero in the Marvel Universe on his way to world domination. The only way to stop him, is to turn him from the path of villany while he's still young. Future-Gert plants some drama-seeds by suggesting that Karolina will leave the group, implying that she and Victorious were at one point lovers, and dying in Chase's arms with the last words "I never told you how much I loved..." The kids set out to stop Victorious, now just a teenager with a super-hero fetish named "Victor", and change destiny.
The arc, while not entirely engaging and completely predictable, has it's high points and introduces us to some new relationship dynamics. Gert and Chase are squishy together, Nico learns to respect Chase, Karolina continues to question her sexuality, and Victor finds a place in the group as the 6th Runaway
In the second arc, Cloak returns to ask the children to help clear his name in an attack on his partner Dagger. Implicated by security camera footage of a Cloaked figure using his powers to subdue and rape Dagger, Cloak is targetted by the police and The Avengers as the most obvious suspect. The Runaways have to travel to New York City, a city of first-rate superheroes, to figure out how to clear his name. In the process Nico runs into She-Hulk, Gert and Victor have sushi with Spiderman, Molly pwns Wolverine, and Chase finds out that he can use the Staff of One. The whole arc seems an excuse to create "cute" interactions between the Runaways and as many other Marvel characters as possible. That said, it IS pretty fabulous (and funny) to see an 11 year-old girl hand The Avengers their asses.
Chase, Molly and Gert pretty much own this collection. Nearly all of the interesting moments belong to them... and Chase, in particular, seems poised to become a much more multifaceted (and powerful) character than we all first expected.
On the downside, Nico is starting to come off as a bit of a skank :/ She's now had her lips on three of the five other original Runaways AND a random vampire-kid...
Sorry Karolina fans: I'm afraid she's out of commission for a majority of this volume.
Victor, for all of the focus on him in the first arc, is still more of a Gary Stu than an interesting character. He is too perfect and generic to be remotely interesting at this point.
In spite of the lack of focus, lack of strong central villains, and inclusion of WAY too many Marvel crossovers for the casual reader's comfort: this installment does have it's moments of brilliance, drama and humor. While not nearly as strong as their origin story, the two arcs included here do move the story along and carve a welcome place for The Runaways in the larger Marvel Universe. The more we see of them with other costumed super-heroes, the more we come to appreciate them as exceptions to silly super-hero conventions. These kids never wear stupid costumes, they don't have corny catch-phrases, they don't call themselves "The Runaways", and they've dropped their code-names altogether. They're just a group of kids with special powers who want adults to leave them, and other kids like them, alone.
The artwork is still incredibly strong, the covers are gorgeous, and while a few "anime style" chapters stand out as mediocre in comparison: none of the artwork is bad. The free comic included (X-Men Runaways) is entirely disposable. Its writing and artwork don't even attempt to live up to the original series. While it's interesting to see a different take on the Runaways (Saturday Morning style), it's something you can read once and the forget about having ever existed.
Buy it here: