You'll no doubt have heard that, however temporary it's unfortunately likely to be, Marvel is launching a team of all-female Avengers during its upcoming Secret Wars mega-crossover. Bizarrely the team is called A-Force rather than, say, the Aveng-hers or the A-femme-gers, but it's still a very welcome move from a company which has lately shown an admirable commitment to putting its roster of great female characters front and centre.
People asking such questions clearly haven't read Runaways, which is a shame if not exactly surprising. The critics liked it and its fans were pretty much devoted to it, but it was never a big seller, despite being one of the best comics Marvel was publishing at the time. So, for the benefit of those who aren't sure who Nico is or why they should be interested in her, here's a brief retrospective of Runaways and why you should read it.
One of the many things that made Runaways so memorable was that it pre-dated Marvel's current commitment to diversifying its titles by about 10 years. The team's roster changed over the years, but the initial line-up defied the stereotypical superhero team line-up currently exemplified by the on-screen Avengers. Where they are five white guys (two of them called Chris) and a token woman, the Runaways had two boys and four girls. Of the six, one was black, Nico was Japanese-American, and another - we shan't say who because of spoilers - would eventually be revealed to be gay.
This never felt like political correctness for its own sake. It never felt forced or unusual that the team had such a mixed line-up; it just felt like the reality of teenage life in 21st Century America, and the fact that the team are all teenagers (apart from Molly, anyway) is another part of what made Runaways such a great comic. Marvel has always done teen superheroes well, right back to the original run of Spider-Man, and there's a reason why teenagers make such great characters in superhero fiction.
But enough about the series as a whole - let's talk about Nico specifically. In another of Vaughan's spot-on observations about what it's like to be a teenager, she's still struggling to work out who she is over the course of the series. We see in a flashback that, a year before, she dressed conventionally, had short hair and glasses; the Nico of the present, by contrast, has hair down to her waist, wears contact lenses, and has an elaborate, custom-made Goth wardrobe. It's a subtle but really nice touch that your teenage years are for figuring out who you want to be - and if you want to be someone else, you'll never have a better time to completely reinvent yourself. She's a fantastic character - very intelligent and principled, but also headstrong and impulsive, prone to making mistakes.
It's been a while since Runaways ended, but it's probably safe to assume that Nico in A-Force will be much as she was in the series she first appeared in: determined to be a proper superhero, but also inexperienced and not necessarily all that good at it. Even in this universe-smashing event which Marvel are currently planning, it's not likely that the status quo of these characters will change all that much. It'll be very interesting to see how she'll play off against seasoned Avengers like Captain Marvel and She-Hulk.
There's every possibility of A-Force being an excellent comic, given the talent involved and the characters it's focusing on, and it's great to see that the former Runaways are still hanging around somewhere in the Marvel Universe (you can just see another of them, Karolina, in the top-right of the promo image). And hopefully, since Nico is going to be a main character, it'll help revive interest in one of Marvel's most under-appreciated comics. Who knows? Maybe there'll even be a Runaways movie in Phase Four. It's no more a gamble than Guardians of the Galaxy.
Can't wait for A-Force? Massive fan of Nico? Or wish your favourite kick ass female superhero was in the line-up instead? Whatever you think, let us know below!