It is with a heavy heart that I acknowledge that Kris Anka’s final issue as the regular artist of Marvel’s Runaways is February’s #18. The latest incarnation of the beloved team book, written by Rainbow Rowell, has featured career-best artwork from Anka; he’s given the characters new life with vibrant, fashion-forward designs that are as gag-worthy as any cliffhanger ending. Kris Anka’s designs for Nico, Chase, and the others underscores something too often overlooked in comics: that clothing—what the characters chose to wear to express themselves—is a vital component of visual storytelling. With that, I raise my glass to the Top 10 Runaways #Lewks.
Honorable Mention: Victor’s Headgear
Okay, this is more transportation than fashion, but I have to shine the spotlight on my favorite running (ha) joke in Runaways: Victor, the disembodied cyborg head, getting around the Hostel via drone, Roomba, and even cardboard box tied to balloons. It’s funny as hell and, dare I say it, a good look.
10. Julie Power’s Flight Suit
Here’s how you update a classic superhero costume! Special guest star Julie Power wears a fitted flight suit over her Power Pack costume, along with a kicky scarf that suggests a daredevil aviatrix look. Anka gives Julie a chic, young professional look that sets the Avengers Academy faculty member apart from the trash fire chaos of the Runaways.
9. Abigail’s Peter Pan Fantasy
The ninth spot goes to Abigail, Molly’s BFF turned BBF (Big Bad Forever). The precocious preteen is actually much older than she looks, having been gifted eternal girlhood via a magic cupcake. When the wrong girl takes a bite of another magic cupcake, the Runaways confront Abigail for a cure, finding her in this green nightgown that evokes both Peter Pan and Wendy Darling—because Abigail is, of course, the girl who never grows up. The green color also evokes The Enchantress, the supervillain who changed Abigail’s life; all in all, this is a great example of how one outfit can tell a complete story about the person wearing it.
8. Chase Stein: Problematic Daddy
No, it’s not the sequel to Dream Daddy. Blink, and you’ll miss this look in Runaways #7, when Chase goes to Molly’s parent-teacher conference wearing a t-shirt that reads “Problematic Daddy.” Look, I could write a paragraph about Chase’s arc as an abused kid growing up and struggling to fill the role of responsible father figure, but PROBLEMATIC DADDY sums it up so succinctly.
7. Sweet Karolina
Usually, I’m annoyed when a male artist puts a female character in a crop top, because that’s often a lazy shorthand for “she’s hawt” rather than a thoughtful presentation of what that particular character would wear at that particular moment. But for Karolina Dean, a very specific kind of solar-powered Vegan California rich girl, the midriff-baring sports-bra look makes perfect sense. It’s casual and chic at the same time, and the VAN DYNE label she frequently wears is a smart bit of in-world branding.
6. Black Magic Woman
Perhaps no Runaway has had their personal style as misunderstood as Nico Minoru’s. Series co-creator Adrian Alphona originally designed Nico with a do-it-yourself Gothic Lolita aesthetic, but over the years other artists have put Nico in outfits that are, at best, out of season castoffs from the Hot Topic clearance rack, and at worst, culturally insensitive. I love how Kris Anka has updated Nico’s style, especially with this dress from the end of the first arc: lots of black, of course, and the sheer material and two side slits make this a more grown-up look. Starry jewelry and a reversed pentagram design give an edge to the young witch who’s still ambivalent about her powers. And that asymmetrical cut with the purple and blue fade? Take me to hell, please.
5. A Walk on the Wilder Side
When we first met the Runaways’ treacherous former leader Alex Wilder, he was a seemingly typical teenager with a nerdy-casual wardrobe of hoodies, layered t-shirts, etc. But that Anka glo-up is REAL, my friends. Alex used to play video games, and now he looks like a video game villain. That ombre coat is everything; the black fading into white is a perfect visual metaphor for how you never know which side Alex is really on.
4. Marvel-ous Molly
When we finally catch up with Molly, who’s left the team to live with her mad scientist grandmother, she’s in this adorable outfit complete with Captain Marvel socks (how are those not for sale at Her Universe, already??), overalls festooned with frolicking bunnies, and, dun dun dun, a HAT, of course! And not just any hat, but a precious pink cat-shaped hat that also visually connects Molly to her crazy cat lady relative. This could have easily been a list dedicated solely to Molly’s hats, but we probably couldn’t handle that much awesome.
3&2. Nico and Karolina’s YA Romance Dream Date
Listing these two gowns together, because it would be mean to split them apart. Issue #12 could have been titled “The Squee Heard ‘Round the World” for finally making fan-favorite couple Nico and Karolina canon. But before they lock lips, they get a Beauty and The Beast moment greeting each other at the bottom of a staircase in these magnificent gowns. They show off how different the girls are—Nico’s dress is black and sultry, Karolina’s is poofy and pink—and they complement each other perfectly. I love how the flowers and stars on Karolina’s dress recall her earthly home and alien origins, and there’s something dark and magical about the swirling patterns on Nico. Getting these two together required something big and swooning and extra, and these gowns are it. (I still miss Xavin, though.)
1. You Go, Gert
Change is scary. Look at Psylocke—she’s had two bodyswaps and still keeps the same hair color. Makeover stories for women (especially nerdy and plus-size women) can be a minefield, so changing up Gert’s very distinct (but admittedly very early 2000’s) look was a risk. And I love it. Gert is still very much Gert, but a Gert who’s growing out of her tryhard phase and becoming more comfortable in her own skin. Going back to her natural hair color, and saying goodbye to her most comic book-y feature, is a bold move that also exposes the vulnerability of her character. And the stylistic callbacks to Heroine, the doomed Future Gert who may never be, suggesting that even as Gert asserts her individuality she may be locking herself into a grim destiny? MWAH. The layers, people! And not just that awesome sweater and tunic. I would wear this outfit in an instant, and it’s my favorite look in all of Kris Anka’s Runaways.