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Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence - [Feb. 19th, 2017|06:02 pm]

- three times, it seems, is Brian K. Vaughan.

No, I don't regard him as enemy action, so perhaps I'd better unpack that. I came home from the Graphic Novels Reading Group with the big hardback of Runaways, loaned to me by a fellow-member of the group, full of praise and enthusiasm for the title. I spotted a trade paperback of Saga, waiting to be written up for my book diary, and a single issue of Paper Girls, which had just arrived with my comics order. If you asked me to list my favourite comics authors, you'd be waiting a long time for me to reach the name of Brian K. Vaughan. Yet somehow three of his titles have converged on my reading list, and of those Saga (fabulous art by Fiona Staples) certainly is on my list of the best comics currently being published (if only the gaps between the collections weren't so long). How did that happen without my noticing it?

Two things: one is that I had very mixed reactions to previous BKV titles read in the reading group. When everyone else was raving about Y: The Last Man, I read the first, or maybe the first two, collections, and bailed: interesting, but not interesting enough to tempt me through all however many volumes there were, and it's not as if I cared what had happened to all the other men. Maybe I should revisit that? But I bounced quite hard off the conclusion to Ex Machina. It didn't help that, for reasons, I read the concluding volumes in the wrong order, but I don't think that's why I thought the conclusion was twisty for the sake of the twist, unearned. So perhaps I'm on guard against loving these books too much, and then hating the ending - and all credit to an author who makes me confident at least that he does know where his story will end.

Where, but not when. It's significant, I think, that I'm reading Paper Girls in single issues, Saga in trade paperbacks, and Runaways in one great volume of 18 issues, which was originally intended as the full story. The more I read at once, the better it works. Which isn't to say that Runaways comes over as the best of the lot, but that this story, which is comparatively early work, and (unlike the other two) not creator-owned, still comes across as great fun, and good-hearted, too.

Am I taking Runaways less seriously than it intends? That would be a first, since my bias is entirely the other way! And no, I don't think so. Here's the premise: a group of six teenagers, thrown together once a year while their parents conduct a 'business meeting', discover that their parents are actually criminal masterminds, so they run away together, determined to oppose their parents (it's every teenager's dream) and in the process discover their hitherto unexpected powers (no, wait, that's every teenager's dream). The interactions of the teenagers, who have all read as many comics, played as many videogames, seen as many superhero movies as the average bunch of spoiled rich kids, would have been quite enough to keep me entertained, but there's more. There's a not very mysterious mystery: which of the kids is the mole, secretly working for rather than against their parents? (I was a bit baffled by the parents inability to identify their offspring from the handwriting, but is that just a sign of age? Would it be a printed note? I'd regard that, too, as a clue, but never mind). But there's more: there are guest appearances of not-entirely-random superheroes, and wait until you discover the driving force behind the parents activities... And there's an entirely satisfying ending, which won't stop me going back to the next meeting of the Reading Group and asking to borrow the next volume.

I should add that if you ask the internet about Brian K. Vaughan, it will tell you that he writes comics about - gasp - girls! This is true, but he does it without fuss: he writes about people, who come in a variety of genders. Some of the Runaways are boys, some are girls, and this has implications for their characters and their relationships and their actions. Some of the characters are teenagers and some are not (because, actually, those evil parents are people too), and, well, I should hope so. Isn't that what fiction is?