Is ‘Runaways’ The First Genuinely Good Marvel TV Show?

Matthew Loffhagen
(Photo: Marvel)

Early reviews for Runaways say pretty much what you’d expect.

Apparently, this show feels a lot like The OC with super powers. That’s hardly a surprise considering that the show is made by a large chunk of the creative team behind The OC, but is based on a Marvel comic book series.

Teenage kids have angsty, flirty adventures, while grappling with severe mommy and daddy issues. One kid is a robot, one is a sorcerer, one’s an alien – it’s a mixed bag, but they’re all conventionally attractive pools of hormones, learning not only about their own powers, but about what it’s like to be young adults in a world where their most trusted authority figures turn out to be literally evil.

It’s a fun premise for a show, especially considering how well the comics work. While the Runaways aren’t as well known as many Marvel superhero teams, they’re certainly won cult status within the comic book scene, in large part because they’re so different from anything that’s come before.

It sounds, then, that the new show is a fairly faithful adaptation of the source material, and that’s a great thing – but is it enough to make Runaways stand out amid an increasingly crowded comic book superhero TV landscape?

It’s no secret that Marvel has never really nailed the television formula in the same way that the studio has with its movie division.

Inhumans may be the most recent embarrassment, but there have been plenty of missteps along the way. From the first dull season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to the lackluster second set of Daredevil episodes, it seems that no Marvel show is capable of being flawlessly perfect (with the possible exception of Agent Carter, which was cancelled before it got the chance to fail).

Perhaps the most unique, distinct offering we’ve had from Marvel TV has been Legion, but that’s hardly because of the work of the studio itself – when you get the Fargo guy on a project, you’re going to expect him to make something wacky.

So here we are, in a situation where Marvel has never really seemed capable of making a show that transcends its genre. Everything the studio has to offer is defined by the fact that it’s a comic book show. If it’s good, it’s only compared to other, far worse TV comic book shows. No Marvel show has dominated the TV landscape to the point that it’s escaped its genre to gain mainstream appeal.

Perhaps, then, Runaways is the show to do it. Maybe, where everything else from Marvel has been trapped by the comic book label, this unfamiliar property, feeling every bit like a wackier version of The OC, will manage to grab audiences for something other than the opportunity to see famous superheroes on the small screen.

Runaways Group
Source: Marvel

Runaways has potential to go the distance, and connect with the mainstream audience in a far more organic way than anything else Marvel has produced for television. If all goes well, this could be the Iron Man of TV shows, drawing huge crowds not because of the established comic book lore, but because the story that’s being told is genuinely interesting.

That’s a pretty unlikely scenario, but it just might work out. Here’s hoping that with Runaways, Marvel has finally found a show that people who don’t read comics or watch MCU movies will be willing to sit down and watch without feeling bored.