Created by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona back in 2003, Runaways is a Marvel story like no other. It shuns so many of the traditional comic book tropes, ditching everything from costumes to code-names, and instead tells a character-rich story focused on a handful of teenagers who learn their parents are super-villains. The original comics were a hit, and for years Marvel Studios toyed with making a movie. Now, at last, on November 21st we're due to see this band of teens enter the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe in their own TV series.
But how will Runaways fit within the broader #MCU? Executive Producer Jeph Loeb has finally given us some answers...
Loosely Set In The Same World
The original Runaways comic had a very loose relationship with the #Marvel Comics universe. In fact, Vaughan deliberately set the comic on the West Coast, away from all the superhero action that's typically set in New York. This approach allowed him to create his own popular corner of the Marvel Universe, and crossovers were kept to a minimum. It wasn't until Vaughan moved on that later writers really began to embed the series in the wider Marvel Universe, and that was largely a consequence of 2006's Civil War event.
The Runaways TV series looks set to take a similar approach. As Loeb explained:
"It all lives in the same world, how it’s connected and where it’s connected and what it’s going to be connected to remains to be seen. What we’re trying to do now is tell a great story."
The threads of the Marvel properties have, to date, been carefully woven together. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. orbits the movies, and until recently, it's been a useful timekeeper for the films. Inhumans and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. tie together closely. The various Marvel Netflix shows spin out of New York's recovery from the Chitauri invasion, and are telling a closely-woven narrative that's set to climax in The Defenders. In contrast, though, Runaways is standing on its own two feet. Marvel's focus isn't on weaving this story into the wider MCU; it's simply on telling a great story.
As Loeb notes, these are kids. And yes, they know about superheroes, and they think some of them are cool; but the Avengers aren't their focus. Using the example of social media, Loeb pointed out that kids would relate to the MCU's major events in a very different way.
"Since it’s all connected through social media and it’s all connected in its own way, would you be following Iron Man or would you be following someone your own age? The fact that they’ve found each other and they’re going through this mystery together at the moment is what we’re concerned about, not what Captain America is doing."
Season 4 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. saw Marvel's flagship series take a similar approach, where they chose to link to Doctor Strange thematically, rather than using overt nods and Easter Eggs. It's a smart way to do it, not least because it prevents further continuity issues if Marvel Studios chooses to switch up the timeline again.
This approach may change, though. If Runaways is a success, and Hulu signs off on a second season, then we may well get to meet the Skrull warrior named Xavin. Given Marvel Studios is set to introduce the Skrulls in 2019's Captain Marvel, and there are rumors of a future Secret Invasion plot, this would set up some very intriguing opportunities for tie-ins and crossovers. Another major character further down the road is Victor Mancha, the "son" of Ultron, who could further tie the show into the wider MCU.
For now, it looks like Runaways will be set in the MCU, but we shouldn't expect explicit tie-ins. Just as in the comics, the series will take advantage of a world in which superheroes and super-villains are a part of everyday life, and build its own corner of that world. It worked for Brian K. Vaughan back in 2003; hopefully it will work just as well for Marvel Television in 2017!
Do you think Marvel Television should introduce Xavin?