Kris Anka (Artist), Joe Caramagna (Letterer), Rainbow Rowell (Writer), Matthew Wilson (Color Artist)
This review contains spoilers for Runaways #16.
What I look for in a holiday special is pretty simple. I’m a simple woman with simple needs. Actually no, that’s completely false. I am an incredibly picky woman with incredibly niche interests. I want the cheesiness of a Hallmark movie with the snark and self-awareness of that cheesiness. It’s a fine line to walk, and Rowell walks it flawlessly. The issue begins with my precious best boy, Chase, decorating a coat rack with a garland made of raisins. Nico, being the Mom friend, does a Holly Jolly spell to make their holiday bright. The effects of the spell are:
1) Ugly sweaters FOR ALL
2) Actual Christmas tree with presents
3) Christmas Dinner, complete with green bean casserole
And like every heartwarming holiday special, the Runaways, out of the goodness of their hearts, invite everyone to Christmas dinner–including Doombot, the Gibborim–and even Alex, whose return from the dead the Runaways are having decidedly mixed feelings about.
In typical Rowell fashion, this story contains highly entertaining banter, one-liners that made me laugh-out-loud, a shippy Chase/Gert moment that had me GASP out loud, and the family dysfunction that only serves to prove how far they’ve come, together, especially considered where we started over a year ago. It’s an emotional culmination that I wasn’t prepared for. It’s also beyond hysterical to see that Doombot has basically become Murder Uncle for the Runaways, who interact with him with the same eye-rolling indulgence that Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm show towards Victor Von Doom in Zdarsky’s recent Two-in-One series. Also who knew that Doombot could be such a snappy dresser?
Anka recently announced that issue #18 will be his last interiors art for Runaways (and that he won’t be moving to another Marvel project, which crushes all of my Zdarsky/Anka Namor ongoing dreams), and this issue is filled with Anka-licious moments that prove that he’s going to be a hard act to follow.
The end of the issue puts the Runaways back on track to continue with the story arc, and I think that’s one of the things that impressed me the most about it. The fact that it manages to be a holiday issue while balancing that current story arc is a narrative triumph, and further, it manages to incorporate small moments that are emblematic of how far the series has come, and a moment to rest before what promises to be an intense story arc conclusion.
When comics are under a serious threat of never making it to the next issue before getting cancelled (especially those which feature queer characters or have a primarily female audience), it’s a risk to take time on an issue that has no real purpose other than to take a breath and have the characters we love interact for 22 pages. In a tweet Rowell said that this issue was a year in the works, and that’s incredible to me if only because it seems like creators never know if they’re going to be putting out an issue in three months, much less a year from now.
🎄🎄🎄IN STORES TODAY: A RUNAWAYS CHRISTMAS! 🎄🎄🎄
We planned this issue for a year, and this is my favorite single page of the book so far. Art: @kristaferanka; color: @COLORnMATT; letters: @JoeCaramagna; brains: @nick_lowe_ and @writeneski pic.twitter.com/H3Oyj5zb3j
— Rainbow Rowell (@rainbowrowell) December 19, 2018
From a longtime reader’s perspective, this issue was more than worth the wait. It’s chock-full of everything that makes Runaways such a good series–plus Christmas! So, I’d like to end with a sincere thank you to Rowell and the editors at Marvel who allowed this to happen. I wrote this review because sometimes it feels like you have to write down the obvious things in order to get people to pay attention, so Marvel, if you’re listening–this was a good thing. Do more good things like this. Sincerely, a fan.