Last weekend, I was lucky enough to attend C2E2, Chicago’s coolest comic book convention. Now, I love C2E2 and I try to visit it in some form every year. Of course, my favorite part of any con is artist alley. I love rubbing shoulders with fellow independent creators, making new contacts, and finding some hidden treasures. This year, I found one such treasure. That treasure is a science fiction graphic novel series called Runners.
Runners is about a group of space aged smugglers, desperately trying to make a not so honest living in a not so honest galaxy. The crew is made up of the gruff Captain Roka, his easily angered, yet pragmatic second in command Ril, the young recruit with a kick ass glowing arm, Bocce, the gleeful, gambling sharpshooter Cember, the enormous stone like warrior Bennesaud, and the amnesiac stowaway Sky. Together, they try to make their way in the galaxy. Sadly, they aren’t very good at it, because they constantly find themselves in heaps of trouble.
To put it simply, Runners is a fantastic comic. The stories for the first two graphic novels, Bad Goods and the Big Snow Job, are fun, exciting and extremely clever. Sean Wang (who is not just the writer, but also the artist), manages to craft a story that is witty and engaging, with a kooky and all too loveable cast of characters. While each installment features a standalone adventure, Wang manages to also foreshadow some farther reaching story elements, interweave the tale with some great character moments, and pepper in some intense and thrilling action sequences.
To make it even better, Runners has some truly incredible artwork. The character designs are rich with detail, yet clean and polished. Not only that, but all of the alien designs are so weird, so fascinating and so otherworldly. I can honestly say that I have never seen such cool and interesting alien designs. One of my favorites is Cember. He’s a happy go lucky marksman who has a set of tentacles for legs, and a set of 5 or so eyes that wrap completely around his head. It’s such a cool and creative design, just like every character in Runners.
Another thing I love about Runners is how jam packed full of content the graphic novels are. When you pick up a volume of Runners, you aren’t just getting a great story. In the last pages of both volumes, Wang includes all sorts of extras, including a short story, concept designs, pinups, and even a translation guide to help you pronounce all the crazy sci-fi alien names. If you pronounced the name Cember like KEM-ber, you’re doing it wrong.
Overall, I can’t say enough good things about Runners. Sure, there are a few flaws. The color work in the second volume is a bit drab at times, particularly during the opening gun battle. A few major characters (Bocce and Bennesaud) haven’t had much to do thus far into the tale, leaving me a little cold towards them. Other than those minor nitpicks, Runners is one hell of a comic!
With its cast of unique characters, fun and clever storytelling, pulse pounding action, a witty sense of humor, and some incredible artwork, Runners celebrates sci-fi geekdom with big ol’ stupid looking grin on its face. With a seemingly effortless craftsmanship, Sean Wang delivers a science fiction adventure that is more fun than any comic has the right to be. And comics are pretty damn fun. The biggest flaw Runners suffers from is the fact that there is no third volume to start reading. Well…. not yet anyways.
If you love epic sci-fi action, elaborate alien creatures, rich new worlds, and cool star ships, I suggest you hop on over to http://runnersuniverse.com/ and start reading it now! You won’t regret it!
I give Runners a 9.5 out of 10.
PS: Anyone else get the Twilight Zone reference in the publisher name? I dig it.