By Matt Powell
For the Marvel Universe, the children really might be the future.
Factoring in the mutant population decimation, the Civil War, the death of Captain America, and now the Secret Invasion of Skrulls on Earth, it seems the current era of the Marvel Universe as we know it might be drawing to a premature close.
Marvel's old guard has done its best to ensure the sun would rise over a free world with each battle won, however, with bigger and more dangerous threats lurking around every corner it would be unwise to believe these giants will walk among us forever. Just as champions like the Avengers and X-Men have chosen to fight the good fight in the name of heroes who have inspired them, a new generation stands at the edge of greatness.
Over five weeks, Marvel.com will take an in-depth look at the forerunners of this next wave of heroes to determine what the future holds for them and for the Marvel Universe. Today, we begin with the Runaways.
WHO THEY ARE:
cover by Jo Chen
Operating outside the mainstream superhero hub of New York City, a California-native group of childhood friends called the Runaways, fight for survival and against their deceased parents' evil plans of global genocide spurred on by the extra-dimensional race of god-like beings called the Gibborim.
The team consists of teenage humans, mutants, and aliens with each member of the Runaways utilizing powers and technology personally granted to them by their parents/species including: mutant-powered strength, alien-enhanced flight, time travel technology, advanced weapons, and magic.
Constantly on the run from the law, super villains, and their parents' old allies, the Runaways maintain a low profile while serving the greater good.
WHY THEY COULD BE THE FUTURE:
Although the on-the-run cast of teens usually remains below the radar, series writer/co-creator Brian K. Vaughan dropped a startling reveal in the "True Believers" arc that kicked off the second volume of RUNAWAYS: roughly 20 years into the future, team member Gertrude Yorkes will lead the Avengers!
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A future version of Gertrude traveled back in time to inform her former team of a threat that would destroy her Avengers and the world in the years to come—Victor Mancha, cyborg 'son' of long-time Avengers foe, Ultron! In true Avengers form, the Runaways band together with other heroes to defeat Ultron, and seemingly save the world from an apocalyptic future.
"I'd say the current New Avengers team," explains series editor Nick Lowe of which cast of Avengers the Runaways most resemble. "They're on the run, dealing with issues that are much bigger than they're equipped for, and they jibber-jabber a lot."
Since the death of the present version of Gertrude Yorkes, the ramifications of her passing have yet to surface and illustrate how it affects this possible future. However, with a host of committed heroes in tow, someone may rise from the ranks to carry the banner of the big 'A' in the years to come.
Lowe admits he feels no member of the team should "pack their bags and head for Avengers' Tower or the Xavier Institute" at this time. However, his statement comes not entirely due to the Runaways' lack of experience, but rather their personal preference.
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"Most of them don't want to be on either of those teams," chuckles the editor. "They're already on the coolest team."
Even though most of the teams' concerns revolve around staying alive, at the end of the day some members may have higher aspirations and callings whether they believe it or not. Lowe reveals the cybernetic tech-wiz, Victor Mancha, would "love to be an Avenger some day," and what a twist it would be to see another 'son' of Ultron—following the Vision's lead—join Earth's Mightiest Heroes.
12-year-old mutant powerhouse, Molly Hayes, stands as one of the few empowered mutants on the planet and with mutant numbers dwindling everyday, the Xavier Institute has to be a given for her to enroll in when she's ready.
GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENTS TO DATE:
"I think most of their adventures would scare the pants off the adults," deadpans Lowe.
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Aside from staring Ultron down eye-to-optic, the Runaways have overcome teammate betrayals, brawls with the Wrecking Crew, a caged-in battle with mega-powerful Kree warrior Marvel Boy, and a stare-down with mysterious god-like beings. Taking into account everything the Runaways have faced at their age, Lowe makes an interesting assessment of the teen's track record in comparison some of Marvel's premiere adult heroes.
"Captain America's parents weren't super-villains," notes the editor. "Hawkeye's best friend didn't betray his whole team and nearly kill them all. Very few of those adult heroes had to deal with all this as a teenager."
BIGGEST LESSONS TO BE LEARNED:
In issue #7 of the second volume, in response to Victor Mancha's request that the team should have a rallying cry similar to 'Avengers Assemble' or 'Hulk Smash,' team leader, Nico Minoru, replies 'Try Not to Die.'
This phrase speaks volumes of the team's inexperience and represents their mantra with every new adventure they face. Survival remains at the forefront of each member's mind—not fame or even being full-time heroes.
"They just want to learn how to stay alive and try to help people," says Lowe. "They're not running out and joining the Initiative."
BEST TRAITS TO HOLD ON TO:
As childhood friends and virtual orphans, the Runaways retain a vicious loyalty to each other and that connection makes any pain or betrayal caused by another member all the worse. In spite of the physical obstacles and emotional angst ever present in their lives, kids will be kids and always find a way to crack a smile, if only for surviving through the day.
Though the Avengers' Tower or the Xavier Institute may not be immediate destinations on the Runaways' journey, given the foes and struggles they've faced already, the team's got the in-the-trenches chops to prove them worthy of the mantle someday—that is, if they choose it.
"The Future Is Now" continues next week with a look at the Initiative. RUNAWAYS #29 ships on February 6. In the mean time, check out Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited for the first and second volumes of RUNAWAYS!