Runaways (2nd series) #1

Issue Date: 
April 2005
Story Title: 
True Believers

Brian K. Vaughan (writer), Adrian Alphona (penciler), Craig Yeung (inker), Udon’s Christina Strain (colorist), Virtual Calligraphy’s Randy Gentile (letterer), Jo Chen (cover artist), Mackenzie Cadenhead (associate editor), C.B. Cebulski (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)

Runaways created by Vaughan & Alphona with special thanks to the many creators of Excelsior

Brief Description: 

Victor Mancha and his friend overhear a police dispatch, advising all units of a masked felony taking place downtown. The Wrecking Crew are robbing a bank, along with a new member, Piledriver’s son, Excavator. They are challenged by the female contingent of the Runaways, who inform them that, if they hand Excavator over, they’ll allow them to be on their way. The Wrecking Crew thinks they’re having a laugh, and a fight quickly breaks out. The Runaways make short work of the felons, but decide to leave Excavator for the cops after all. Gert thinks he’s a lost cause. Elsewhere, the inaugural meeting of Excelsior is taking place. It’s an outreach program that intends to assist teenage superheroes back into normal civilian life. The tutors are former New Warrior, Turbo, and Phil Urich, who briefly assumed the role of Green Goblin. The four assembled youths are Darkhawk, Julie Power, Ricochet and Chamber. As they introduce one another, Turbo takes a call from a mystery benefactor, who tells her that Excelsior will receive a million dollars if they bring in five runaways. Turbo asks them to keep talking. The Runaways return to their new home, under the La Brea Tar Pits Museum. There, the Yorkes’ old time machine begins to rumble, and a woman appears inside it. She claims to be Gertrude, only from the future. She warns of a villain called Victorious who has decimated their future, murdering all their heroes. She asks them to find him in this time, when still a boy called Victor Mancha and before his power becomes too much. She dies from her injuries in Chase’s arms, and Chase suggests they find Victor and rip his heart out.

Full Summary: 

(Los Angeles, California, 9:17pm)

Victor Mancha and his friend, Jorge, are in Victor’s bedroom, discussing which super hero they would be if they could. Victor replies Spider-Man, no question. Jorge informs him that the correct answer is Mr. Fantastic. You could stretch yourself out to eight feet and get a fat NBA contract. Besides, he adds, Spidey ain’t even a hero. He’s just another banger. Victor says the only people who think that are Fox News and the Daily Bugle; and the Bugle is like the least respected paper in New York City.

Jorge is admiring Victor’s collection of super hero toys, including the Thing, Spider-Man, the Hulk, the Invisible Woman and the Scarlet Witch. He asks Victor what he knows about New York City. He’s barely been outside L.A. before. “Your mom won’t even let you go to band camp without…”

The crackle of a radio nearby cuts him off. It’s a police scanner, and dispatch is informing all units of a 10-39 in progress at East First and South San Pedro. Victor becomes a little excited. Jorge asks what a 10-39 is. Naked chicks on parade? Victor replies that it’s a masked felony. That’s cop talk for super-villains.

Jorge suggests they get outta there and check ‘em out. Victor sticks his hands in his pockets, and says that he can’t. It’s a school night and his curfew is 8:30. Jorge reminds him that it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. They never get costumes in L.A., except Wonder Man, and he doesn’t count. Victor apologizes, but it’s his mom’s house and her rules. What’s he supposed to do? Run away? Jorge replies that it’s like his pop says. When you’re an old man, you don’t regret the stuff you did; you regret the stuff you didn’t.

(downtown, 9:19pm)

Police sirens approach the Third Bank of California, which is the scene of a bank robbery. The perps are known as the Wrecking Crew, and they have been joined by a newbie called Excavator. Standing in the vault, with a shovel resting on his shoulder, the teenage villain seems pleased with their work. “Scrilla fo’rilla! This haul is gonna be taut.” Holding two large bags of cash, Thunderball looks at Excavator, and informs his cohorts that if he continues affecting that manner of speech, he’s going to smash him in the face with his own enchanted shovel. Piledriver asks him to settle down, assuring him that’s just the way teenagers talk these days.

Bulldozer is uncertain about his presence. He still thinks that Piledriver dragging his kid along for this score was a dumb play. “This ain’t the Wrecking Crew and Son.” Wrecker feels it’s bad enough that he had to split his power with them; now he’s got to share it with one of their long-lost brats.

Piledriver reminds Wrecker that he’s the one who’s always saying they need to start thinking about their future. Well, he’s just training up the next generation. Besides, he adds, it’s not like there’s gonna be any annoying heroes around to interfere with the li’l digger’s first heist like back in New York - except Wonder Man, and he doesn’t count.

The five criminals saunter casually through a large hole in the wall of the bank and into the street. Excavator asks why they didn’t jump coasts sooner if this town is ripe for the picking. Bulldozer tells him that L.A. used to be run by a dozen stone-cold psychos called The Pride. This was their turf, and any mask who tried to make a play for it would be sent back to the big apple… piece by piece.

Excavator asks if they’re in the ‘stir’ now. Wrecker is annoyed at the questions, but gives in and explains that the Pride is dead. They were betrayed by their spoiled children, in what should have been a valuable lesson to every hood who’s got an ‘accident’ or two out there. Piledriver puts his arm around his kid’s shoulder, and assures Wrecker that he’s got nothing to worry about. Excavator is a chip off the old block.

“Hey Village People!” shouts a voice from nearby. The Crew sees four girls standing in the middle of the street. They are the Runaways, minus the sole male member of the team, Talkback. Arsenic orders them to step away from the minor, and Bruiser tries to be clever, adding, “Or else you’re in for some major... uh, you know, bad stuff.”

Thunderball wonders who the hell they are, and Bulldozer wittily adds that he doesn’t know, but he’ll take a box of thin mints. Sister Grimm informs them that they don’t care about whatever money they stole. They know the bank’s insured. They just want the kid, and they can be on their way. Lucy in the Sky asks Excavator; or Ricky, as she refers to him, if he’s seen the news. His grandparents are worried sick about him. Ricky replies that those stank old fogies can choke on their dentures for all he cares. He’s running with his dad now. His dad appears pleased that he has four ladies fighting for him already. “Told you he takes after his old man,” he grins.

Nico can see no future in using this tact, and asks Karolina to go ahead. Karolina pours a stream of energy at the Wrecking Crew, sending Piledriver tumbling. Wrecker realizes the girls are ‘muties,’ and orders his team to light ‘em up. Karolina informs them that she’s an extraterrestrial, and proud of it. Besides, adds Molly, the word mutie is really offensive to people like her - “You freakin’ racists.”

Excavator rushes Molly with his enchanted shovel, but as he brings it crashing down on her skull, it shatters into a hundred pieces. Molly’s eyes light up. “Too bad. Our club coulda used another boy.” With that, she punches Excavator, sending him flying down the street. Nico asks her to sit on him or something; they’ll finish off the grown ups. Wrecker tells her that she’s just earned herself a taste of the big stick. Nico replies that she bets hers is bigger than his.

“When blood is shed… let the Staff of One emerge!” The staff appears from inside her chest. Wrecker can’t believe it. He hates witches. Holding the staff, Nico simply says, “Deconstruct,” and Wrecker’s body transforms into slices of human flesh, scattered over the street. She assures Karolina that it’s all right. He’ll come together in an hour or two… probably. Karolina is surprised, because she thought Nico could only cast spells after she bled. “And he never even…” Nico gives her the look, and Karolina realizes that it’s Nico’s time of the month.

Thunderball orders them to stop what they’re doing, or he’ll pulverize their friend. Gert is leaning against a tree, but doesn’t appear unduly concerned with her imminent fate. She tells Thunderball that what he’s doing is a bad idea. She has the power to make grown men lose control of their bowels. “Seriously?” he replies. Suddenly, Old Lace’s head appears from the greenery and clamps its velociraptor teeth around Thunderball’s head. Gert wishes her ‘rents had given her Old Lace for her Bat Mitzvah. A telepathic velociraptor from the 87th century would have made middle school a lot more tolerable.

From nowhere, Bulldozer punches Gert in the side of the face, knocking her to the ground. Her glasses are thrown off, and she looks up to see Bulldozer standing over her. He’s figured out that they’re the Pride’s children. Gert replies that maybe his head isn’t as dense as it looks… which is too bad, considering what’s about to land on top of it. Bulldozer raises his head and looks up, just in time to see it about to be landed on by Chase, piloting the Leapfrog.

Chase gets on the radio, and apologizes for being late. He forgot to gas up the Leapfrog last night, and had to ‘borrow’ ninety gallons of unleaded from the Circle A. Nico picks up her glasses. “We are the worst good guys of all time,” she whispers to herself. Molly calls his name, and asks if he saw who they beat up tonight. Their costumes were really pretty. Chase ushers her aboard the Leapfrog, and reminds her of what they talked about. “Costumes are gay.” Karolina warns him not to misuse that word one more time or she’ll… Gert asks her to save it. If they’re not gone in thirty seconds, the pigs are gonna send them back to foster care.

Nico looks over at the unconscious Excavator. She asks if they’re really going to let him get hauled off to juvie. He’s in the same boat as them. Gert replies that she thinks he went overboard the second he saw his father as someone to look up to. No offense to her dearly departed boyfriend, but the last thing they need is another Alex to stab them in the back. “Face it,” she adds, “Some kids are a lost cause.

(Holy Trinity Church, shortly after 9.30pm)

In the basement of the church, a meeting is talking place for a group calling itself Excelsior. The meeting is being co-hosted by Michiko Musashi, who asks everyone to just call her Mickey. She explains that she moved to California three months ago after she got a job with the Los Angeles Times, thanks to a recommendation from her good pal, Phil Urich. Her co-host says howdy. He informs the group that he and Mickey have been talking about starting this group for a while now. He appreciates them coming out for their first meeting. He adds that they don’t exactly have a budget or anything, but they hope to expand Excelsior into a nationwide outreach program someday soon.

Mickey says that, like everyone there tonight, she and Phil are former teenage superheroes. From the time she was a sophomore in college up until a few months ago, she lived a double life as the New Warriors’ Turbo. Late last year, she was fighting some z-lister when she had what she calls an epiphany. She realized she could do more with her education than she ever could with a hi-tech costume. That’s why she decided to return to investigative journalism.

She appreciates she’s not the only one with a story, so she asks the first group member to keep it going. He introduces himself as Chris Powell, and he used to go by the name Darkhawk. He found this amulet when he was in high school and it changed him into this… this thing. They know the drill. He rubs his forehead with his fingers, and adds that he used the powers it gave him to act as a vigilante for a couple of years, which was cool, but he started having nightmares; really intense ones. He was in New York when some pretty bad stuff went down, and just had to get away. Chris doesn’t think he’s cut out for seeing all this stuff; he doesn’t think anyone his age is - but he’s not a coward.

Phil assures Chris that he’s a brave guy; always has been. Mickey asks Julie to take the floor. She stands up, wearing turned up jeans, a small yellow sleeveless top and a flat cap. She introduces herself as Julie Power; and before they ask, that is her real name. She’s actually used a lot of names over the years such as Lightspeed, Starstreak and Molecula: Mistress of Density. When she was younger, her brothers and sister met someone from really far away and in short, they became Power Pack.

She continues to say that, when she and her siblings were fighting crime, she thought it was all fun and games. She had no idea she was actually being robbed of a normal childhood. With the help of a lot of therapy, she’s trying to get some of that innocence back. She adds that she’s always loved fantasy and drama, so she’s living in Hollywood now, just taking auditions and looking for an agent. So… if anyone wants to network after this…

Mickey thanks her, and asks Johnny if he wants to share. Johnny looks like the grungiest of the group. He feels a little outclassed in this company, and feels they probably haven’t even heard of him. His team, the Slingers, were a bunch of Spider-Man wannabes, and he used to go by the name Ricochet.

When his powers first materialized, he thought full-time heroing was gonna be his life. For a while, it was, and it was awesome. However, he continues, before it was over, he’d even look for crimes, but before he got there, somebody like Iron Fist or Moon Knight was already taking care of it. He wasn’t a super hero! He was superfluous. Thing is, he really loved the spotlight. What kid wouldn’t? But, when you get so much so young, so fast, nobody tells you how to deal with it when the spotlight shuts off.

Mickey tells the group they founded Excelsior to help with every stage of their transition into adulthood and a healthy civilian life. Phil agrees. He’d be lying if he said he didn’t enjoy his time as the Green Goblin, but he knows what a dangerous message people like them were sending to impressionable young people. The last member of the group is already on his feet, and he removes his scarf to reveal a burst of glowing energy emanating from his chest. It’s Chamber, and he asks them to hold the bleedin’ phone. “This kid’s the Green Goblin?” Phil assures him he wasn’t the evil Green Goblin. He just found one of his suits and used it to protect people. Chamber finds the idea of a good Green Goblin hard to swallow.

Mickey steps in and tries to calm Jono down, asking him to introduce himself to the others. Jono does as he is asked and replaces the scarf. He tells them he is Jono, or Chamber - whichever strikes. He’s a mutant, and did some time as a soldier with the X-Men after he blew half his face off. A ‘group of sods’ called Weapon X patched him up, but he went and ripped himself a new hole when some drunk in Fresno made him mad. Anyway, he adds, he’s just enduring this sob-fest for the free pizza he read about in the e-mail. Julie hopes she isn’t being insensitive; but he doesn’t even have a mouth. Johnny is impressed he was in the X-Men.

They wouldn’t even return his calls. Mickey’s cell phone rings, and she excuses herself. On the other end is an unknown voice, which lets her know that her little group’s a cool idea; very well executed. She asks who it is, and how they got her number. The stranger replies that it isn’t important right now. What is important, is that there are other people out there who need Excelsior’s help. Not former heroes, but underage kids who are putting their necks on the line even as we speak.

Mickey replies that she didn’t start wearing a mask yesterday. If they think she’s gonna start running errands for some mystery benefactor, they can kiss her… The stranger cuts in, and asks her to find five runaways. In exchange, they’ll give her organization one million dollars - enough to reach out to every cape and cowl who’s ever lived the life. “Keep talking,” she replies.

Meanwhile, beneath the La Brea Tar Pits Museum, the runaways have returned to what is the replacement for the Hostel. Molly wishes they’d put their hideout under an In-N-Out Burger. She’s sick of eating whatever her mom pickled before she passed away. Chase is just pleased to have somewhere. If they hadn’t found their parents’ old lair, the five of them would still be cloaked on Venice Beach, sleeping in the same smelly ship.

Chase adds that, with all the evil fruit loops to beat down, they’re practically living inside the ‘Frog anyway. He mentions a couple of villains they’ve taken down recently, including Flag-Smasher and Batroc the Loser. Nico acknowledges that this is their fault. They created this power vacuum. Chase chuckles, and suggests that power vacuum should be Gert’s new nickname. “You’re disgusting,” she replies. Molly wishes they’d go back to hating each other. It’d make her barf in her mouth less.

Nico adds that she’s serious. Them taking down the Pride was like the U.S. taking down Saddam. They got rid of a monster, but they didn’t plan for what happened next. Their parents may have been awful, but at least they maintained some kind of order.

Chase points at the time machine sitting nearby, and tells her that if she wants her mommy and daddy back so bad, she could use it to rescue ‘em from the past. Karolina says she doesn’t want them back. She was just saying that they have a responsibility to clean up their mess. Besides, for the son of two mad scientists, he sure has a hard time comprehending the fact that Gert’s parents’ time machine has been broken ever since… Her sentence is disrupted when the broken time machine suddenly begins to rumble. Steam gushes out from underneath, and a female form appears inside it.

The woman is in a poor state. Her clothes are tattered and torn, and she struggles to clamber out of the machine. She asks them to tell her what year this is. Before anyone can respond, she looks up and sees Karolina, and deduces that as she’s still there, it must be 2005. Gert warns her not to make another move, or the dinosaur will end her. The woman looks up. “I highly doubt that, Gertrude. Seeing how I’m you.”

Nico is shocked, but Gert says she’s lying. She’d never be caught dead in that get up. The woman says that’s a funny choice of words, and she’ll realize how much things can change in about twenty years, when she starts leading the Avengers. “Gert’s gonna be a super hero?” remarks Molly. The woman says that as funny as it sounds, she’s going to be betrayed by someone she’s stupid enough to put on her team. She barely escaped with her life. He just slaughtered her Avengers, and used her files to kill others. Hisako and her X-Men, Daredevil, the Fantastic Fourteen; he murdered all of them - every hero on the planet.

The woman struggles to catch her breath, as Chase kneels down and asks who did this. She replies that he was a supposed ‘champion’ named Victorious. He’s the most powerful man on the planet. Please, she begs, they’re the future’s only hope. Iron Woman sacrificed her life to help power this one last trip, because she needed them to stop him.

Karolina asks how they’re supposed to stop him if the grown-up them can’t. The woman informs them that they have to find Victorious when he was a boy, before he becomes too strong. She produces an old photograph, and tells them his name is Victor Mancha. He grew up there, in Los Angeles. She warns them not to trust him. He’s not who he says he is. She knew they would understand. His father is a villain from this time; the greatest evil in the universe. She puts her head back, and takes a look at Chase. “Sweet Chase… In all those years I never told you… how much I loved…

Old Lace purrs, not quite able to understand what’s going on. The woman dies from her injuries in Chase’s arms, and Karolina struggles to hold back her emotions. Molly tells Gert that she’s really sorry, but Gert is adamant that the woman isn’t her. It’s probably just another… another lie from their parents. One last mind-freak from the grave. Karolina points out that Old Lace seems pretty convinced it’s her.

Nico asks them to think about this for a second. What if this woman was telling the truth? Even if there is someone out there who’s gonna kill every hero on the planet, what do they do about it? Chase says they find him - and with tears streaming down his cheeks, adds they will then rip his heart out.

Characters Involved: 

Arsenic/Gertrude Yorkes, Bruiser/Molly Hayes, Lucy in the Sky/Karolina Dean, Sister Grimm/Nico Minoru, Talkback/Chase Stein (all Runaways)

Old Lace

Victor Mancha

Jorge - Victor’s friend

Bulldozer/Henry Camp, Excavator/Ricky, Piledriver/Brian Philip, Thunderball/Dr. Eliot Franklin, Wrecker/Dirk Garthwaite (all Wrecking Crew)

Chamber/Jonothan Starsmore, Darkhawk/Chris Powell, Green Goblin/Phil Urich, Lightspeed/Julie Power, Ricochet/Johnny Gallo, Turbo/Michiko ‘Mickey’ Musashi (all Excelsior)

Mystery benefactor

Gertrude Yorkes (alternate future version)

(in photographs)

Frank & Leslie Dean, Alice & Gene Hayes, Robert & Tina Minoru, Janet & Victor Stein, Catherine & Geoffrey Wilder, Dale & Stacey Yorkes

Victor Mancha

Story Notes: 

The Runaways began life as six children who lived ordinary lives. They knew each other, but only because their parents had occasional get-togethers. They hadn’t really got the time to know each other, until one fateful day when their folks gathered at the Wilder residence. The kids were left to their own devices and, as they whiled the hours away, they discovered a peep hole looking in on their parent’s meeting. To their horror, they discovered their folks sacrificing a young girl, an act that was to set their minds racing and their lives onto a whole new path. Their parents, it emerged, were actually a group of super-powered individuals calling themselves ‘The Pride.’ They ran Los Angeles’s crime networks. The kids knew they had to take some form of action to take them down, and decided to call the cops. The cops, clearly, didn’t believe them, and this was partly due to the fact that the Pride had certain high-ranking cops in their pockets.

The kids searched their respective homes and soon discovered a Velociraptor that obeyed Gert, and also a book called the Abstract. Alex began to decipher the book in order to learn their parent’s secrets. Gradually, some of the kids realized they had powers of their own. Karolina was an alien, who could not only fly, but could produce blasts of energy. Nico could produce the ‘Staff of One’ from her body and use it to cast spells. The problem was she could only use the same spell once. Molly, the youngest of the Runaways, was a mutant, and amazingly strong, though she was only eleven years of age. Chase’s powers came from his use of technology, and Alex emerged as the brains behind the team.

Their adventures took them on the road, as they tried to figure out a plan to stop their parents. They met Cloak and Dagger on their journeys, and also a nefarious vampire called Topher. Alex slowly unraveled the secrets behind the Abstract, and led the team to their final battleground, with a trio of giants called the Gibborim. The Gibborim had told their parents, many years ago, that they no longer had the power to return the Earth to the Utopia it once was. They gave the ‘Pride’ twenty-five years to destroy the Earth, and in return they offered six of them eternal life. With a fifty-fifty shot at living forever, they all agreed to the proposal. Now that they had children, they wanted to use their ‘gift’ to give their offspring eternal lives instead of them.

The Runaways couldn’t believe all this, and when they turned up to challenge their parents, Alex turned out to have been a mole all along. He explained to Nico that he knew about their parents a year earlier than the rest, and wished to use the Runaways to help stop those who planned to double-cross his own parents. When the Gibborim murdered Alex, some of the parents regretted their decision and decided to fight the Gibborim, allowing their children to escape. Once free, they saw the entire base explode, killing all those inside. In the aftermath, the kids were split up and placed in foster homes, but this status quo didn’t last long, and the kids reunited, promising to stick together.

The Runaways appeared in their first eighteen issue series but as yet have made no appearances outside their own title.

The LAPD code 10-39 is ‘Message Delivered.’ In the Marvel Universe, it appears to mean ‘Masked Felony.’

Wonder Man is an on/off member of the Avengers who spent some time in California pursuing an acting career. He had his own twenty-nine issue series in the early nineties.

The explanation for the lack of super-villains operating in Los Angeles is quite clever. New York City is the center for costume activity in the United States. The Champions were based in L.A for a brief time but that was many, many years ago. It seems the Pride is well known amongst the super-villain community, and has largely kept them away from the city for many years.

There are some coloring problems with the Wrecking Crew. Bulldozer’s costume changes from green, to yellow. Also, Excavator’s sleeves change from orange to white and back again and Bulldozer’s gloves disappear prior to the fight.

The Village People were a quintet of disco singers and dancers who appeared in the late seventies, dressed in individual outfits: a cop, a sailor, a cowboy, an Indian, a leather enthusiast and a construction worker. They’re famed for their classic dance record, Y.M.C.A.

Ricochet is Johnny Gallo, who debuted in Amazing Spider-Man (1st series) #434. He is a mutant, with a ‘danger sense,’ which is similar to Spider-Man’s spider sense. He was a member of the short-lived Slingers, who had a twelve issue series in the late nineties, springing out of a Spider-Man storyline. He is the third Ricochet. Spider-Man was the second and Senator Steven Shaffran was the first, a character from X-Factor’s first series. Johnny’s story is reminiscent of many child actors who fail to maintain a career in the limelight.

Julie Power doesn’t use a codename in this issue, but is named Lightspeed in issue #3. She is a member of Power Pack, a family of junior superheroes with varying powers.

Mickey Musashi became Turbo when she discovered her Halloween costume was actually a powerful suit of armor, alien in origin. The Torpedo suit was a combination of human and Dire Wraith technologies. She and Mike shared the armor and they later met the New Warriors. When Mike was killed by the queen of the alien species the suit was designed for, Mickey learned how to use it properly.

Phil Urich was once known as the Green Goblin. He is the nephew of Ben Urich. He actually fought several villains in this guise such as the Rhino, Steel Hammer and Angel Face. He had his own short-lived series in the mid-nineties.

Darkhawk gained his powers when he discovered a mysterious amulet. Whilst holding it, he wished he had the power to stop some hoods and, amazingly, his wish came true. He gained a new costume and powers, and later hooked up with the New Warriors. When he transforms into Darkhawk, his body is moved into another dimension while his consciousness is placed into an android. This is self-repairing and can generate ‘dark blasts.’ He also had his own series, which ran for fifty issues in the early nineties.

Hisako debuted in Astonishing X-Men (3rd series) #4. She is a student at the Xavier Institute.

Space Ghost is a superhero who appeared in Hanna-Barbera cartoons in the late
1960’s. He was based on the Ghost Planet, and was a kind of outer-space police officer. Space Ghost's wore a white suit, black hood and yellow cape. Flag-Smasher certainly did have a passing resemblance. Flag-Smasher first appeared in Captain America (1st series) #312 and is better known as a Captain America villain.

The runaways used to use codenames, shown above. However, since the end of the first series, they no longer go by them. Only Old Lace retains its given name.

Victor explains that Old Lace is a Deinonychus and not a Velociraptor in Runways (2nd series) #3.

Batroc the Leaper is a French villain, often seen being trounced by a long line of superheroes.

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