The Kids are Alright: Comic TV With Dan

Runaways and Titans: two shows where I expected little, but got a lot.

Here’s another similarity between Runaways and Titans. In both cases, they aren’t so much a team, as a bunch of young people struggling with their own issues, forced to band together against an adversary that seems to have every upper hand. In the comics, they’re families of choice. On their second and first seasons respectively, they’re not there yet. But they’re trying.

The Runners Away

By the end of the first season, the Runaways had finally assembled all of their comic-selves tricks and tools:

  • Niko, whose mother is a witch (and one of the less pleasant Pride members), wields the Staff of One, which can do just about anything, but only responds to a specific command once. Also, it might be a little bit alive with a tendency to corrupt the holder, so that’s a whole thing.
  • Karolina, whose mother and step-father run the Gibborim church, has learned that her real father A) is Jonah, B) is an alien, and C) has passed his powers down to her, which she’s starting to figure out. Also, she’s now proudly out of the closet for the first time, in a relationship with Niko, and quite pleased with that. Hope it doesn’t get horribly complicated halfway through the season, wouldn’t that suck for them. Anyway, she turns to Jonah to learn about her heritage, and he’s excited to introduce her to her family, in a manner that might slightly destroy the world, or at least most of California.
  • Chase, who would rather pretend not to be smart and just be the captain of the lacrosse team, has built himself some gauntlet weapons called the fistigaunts, and was actually getting closer than ever to his scientist father (James Marsters, one of the best parents acting-wise) before he went a little crazy on Jonah-blood and Chase’ mother shot him to protect Chase. So, Chase’s dad opens the season in a healing tube of Jonah’s.
  • Gert, the biggest crusader for social justice, has a telepathic connection to a dinosaur she calls Old Lace (which makes less sense than it did in the comics since Gert doesn’t go by “Arsenic” because Marvel TV, like their film cousins, doesn’t really do code names*). And she’s banging Chase, which she’s happy about, and almost out of anxiety meds, which is a real problem.
  • Molly, who is still written as three years younger than the others yet still doesn’t look three years younger than the others, got super strength in the non-accidental explosion that killed her parents. She wants to be about that super-hero life in a way that the others aren’t on board with.
  • And Alex… Alex knows computers and has a friend who’s a gangster who slips him cash for surprisingly non-illegal favours. In the comics, he’s the group’s mastermind. But he’s also secretly betraying them the whole time, so… both get cut from his TV version, I suppose. He could be a lot better at plans. Just saying.

(*Count how many times the names “Falcon,” “Scarlet Witch,” and “Hawkeye” are spoken out loud before you disagree. It’s cool, I’ll wait.)

Their struggles aren’t just related to saving the world from Jonah and exposing Pride’s sins. There are also a lot of relatable, sensible, real-world issues that come with running away from your wealthy, connected, immoral parents. Getting around Greater Metropolitan LA is hard, because they can’t use their Lyft accounts, and that is the least walkable city devised by man. Gert can’t get her meds, and going cold turkey from anxiety medication is a bitch. And not everyone is as fully on-board with plotting against their parents as Alex is.

This makes for a lot of shifting, dynamic relationships, with the drama never feeling quite so manufactured as… um… (think of an example other than Arrow season four, think of an example other than Arrow season four…) as in the last twenty minutes of The Blindside (TOO OBSCURE).

And there’s less of the first season problem, where the actors were handed some really clunky dialogue that they did not sell.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the coin…

[Come up with Titans pun later, don’t forget before posting]

The Titans… a team name we’ll keep using even if the show hasn’t yet… don’t have the childhood connections of the Runaways. They’re four damaged people getting to know each other under very trying circumstances, but when they really start clicking as a team, it’s a sight to see.

Dick Grayson… Dick’s a work in progress. The first season he’s mostly sulking about his old role as Robin, which he’s trying to give up. He had a falling out with Batman, is angry about his violent upbringing, and made a bad choice in regards to his parents’ murderer that he’s still haunted by… and which causes problems for the team. He doesn’t want to be Robin anymore, but can’t give up the hero life while Rachel needs him. He doesn’t quite figure out to be Nightwing in season one, but he’s getting there. Sadly, there was only so much progress he could make in finding a new hero path because the finale really hinges on him still being torn and tormented.

He’s not my favourite but I see why they did what they did.

Starfire drew a lot of complaints when the first pictures leaked, only mostly from racists, but the second or third time she entered a scene to disco music it clicked for me: “I get it, she’s every Pam Grier character from the 70s.” And from then on, I was on board. Even if she hasn’t used her codename yet (it takes until near the end of the season for her to even remember she’s an alien), Anna Diop’s killing it as Starfire. Sometimes literally. It is a violent show.

Raven… for a young actress, Teagan Croft is great in the role of a young teen tormented by an inner darkness trying to get out (and as said inner darkness, which yells at Rachel in the mirror), and absolutely shoulders the first season mostly revolving around her and her inner (and outer, as it turns out) demons.

Gar… I like that Gar is the Justice League fanboy. Oh, yes, forgot to mention… unlike the Arrowverse, the Titans-verse is not required to deny that any film-worthy characters exist in their world. We never see any of the big-name heroes (though apparently, that’s changing), but they’re out there. Gar is psyched to meet Robin and Wonder Girl, and he’s a little sweet on Rachel.

Hawk and Dove? Great, and with a couple of unexpectedly gutting moments in their origin episode. Donna Troy/Wonder Girl? Didn’t even know they’d use her, but she’s basically perfect. Jason Todd? He is a huge asshole, and that works perfectly.

These foul-mouthed, hyper-violent kids shouldn’t work as well as they do, but damn they work.

Next: An interlude

Author: danny_g

Danny G, your humble host and blogger, has been working in community theatre since 1996, travelling the globe on and off since 1980, and caring more about nerd stuff than he should since before he can remember. And now he shares all of that with you.

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