Runaways: Pride & Joy by Brian K. Vaughan (writer) and Adrian Alphona (pencils)
What do you do when you find out your parents aren’t who you thought they were? Brian K. Vaughan deals with ages-old drama of teenagers confronting the fallibility of their parents in an interesting and exciting way. Though most of us have never discovered that our parents are part of a super-villain syndicate that includes a couple of crime lords who put Kingpin to shame — as well as mutants, aliens, time travelers, sorcerers, and mad scientists — most people can remember the day they realized that their parents are human and fallible, and maybe just a bit hypocritical. While most teenagers feel at some point that their parents are evil, Vaughan’s fantastic teenage heroes know their parents are EVIL. We follow them in this first volume of RUNAWAYS as they struggle to figure out how to use their newly discovered powers not only to rebel against their parents, but also to become their parents’ opposites, a band of superheroes.
The opening scenes of this volume are genius in their depiction of typical teenagers doing what teenagers do. We meet each runaway individually as they prepare for the annual get-together with all six families. Alex Wilder is a gamer, preferring online friends to the group his parents force on him; Gert, the frumpy know-it-all; Karolina, flighty spirit-child of Hollywood royalty; Chase, lacrosse jock and perpetual disappointment to his overachieving parents; Molly, the youngest of the group, confused about the changes her body is going through; and finally, Nico, hot Goth girl, who makes her parents late because she has to blend all her nail polishes together to get black. After the life-changing party when they witness their parents murder a woman as part of some annual ritual, the children learn a lot more about themselves, each other, and the Pride, the group of supervillains formerly known as their parents.
Runaways: Pride & Joy intersperses extraordinary moments where each teenager discovers their own power and takes on their parents with the kinds of conversations one expects of all rebellious teenagers. At the beginning of the annual gathering, Alex suggests they find something to amuse themselves, and Chase, speaking for most 16- to 18-year-old men, says, “Please be beer, please be beer, please be beer . . .” When they meet to process what they’ve witnessed, Gert puts this whole situation into perspective: “What? How is it possible that our parents lied to us? Let’s see: Santa, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, um, God. ‘You’re the prettiest kid in school. This won’t hurt a bit. Your face will freeze like that . . .’” This juxtaposition between the absolute insanity of realizing that their parents are supervillains and the mundaneness of teenage rebellion against hypocritical parents is what makes this work such a pleasure to read.
Adrian Alphona’s artwork captures the facial expressions and action in a way that blends the humorous, the supernatural, and the realistic, creating the effect of making us feel as if we too are back in that moment of discovering who we are in relation to and in contrast with our parents.
The book keeps us guessing and wanting to read more. It ends with the revelation that one of these kids is a “mole,” still loyal to their parents. Who is it? But while we wait until the next volume to find out, we are left with the statement many teenagers would find themselves agreeing with, that if being an adult “means turning into the people who raised us . . . I hope I die before I get old.”
I plan to give Vaughan’s RUNAWAYS to my daughter to read very soon. Maybe she’ll realize that her life could be a little worse: Her parents could really be EVIL.