Marvel seeks out teen market with new TV show The Runaways

Latest Marvel TV series focuses more on teen drama than superpowers

As Marvel dominates the worldwide box office, the Disney-owned studio has also been staging a less heralded but equally emphatic TV takeover.

This year has already seen the debuts of Netflix's The Defenders and The Punisher (see report below), as well as ABC's ratings flop Inhumans.

Enter Runaways, US video-on-demand service Hulu's first foray into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Along with US cable channel Freeform's upcoming Cloak And Dagger and the as-yet homeless New Warriors, it is part of a trio of Marvel properties aimed more at the teen market than the ones already on Netflix and ABC.

Now streaming on Hooq, the largest video-on-demand service in South-east Asia, Runaways stars a group of relatively new young actors as a ragtag bunch of teenagers from diverse backgrounds.

They run away from and unite against their own parents, villains who form a criminal society known as The Pride.

The group also discover they have inherited special powers, and use their gifts to try to bring an end to their parents' nefarious ways.

The task of creating the show - based on a cult 2003 comic book series of the same name written by Brian K. Vaughan - fell to long-time writing partners Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, the team behind hit teen dramas The O.C. and Gossip Girl.

The showrunners and Marvel Television chief Jeph Loeb told journalists on a set visit in Tarzana, Los Angeles, that the studio thought of Runaways as "The O.C. in the Marvel universe".

"The story is about family. It is about that moment where a kid realises that his parents are fallible, that they are imperfect, that they may not be who he necessarily thought they were growing up," Schwartz said.

That experience, he said, is something children all over the world go through - even with parents who are not criminal geniuses.

"That central premise of the book - every teenager thinks their parents are evil, what if they actually were? - is delicious and fun, but there is also a real truth to it that transcends genre," he added.

Originally conceived as a movie, Runaways was ordered as a TV pilot by Hulu in August last year, and rolled out its first three of 10 episodes on Nov 21.

The titular gang includes a highly intelligent jock, a powerful witch, a flying alien, a character with a psychic link to a dinosaur and, inevitably, another with superhuman strength.

The writers take their time establishing back stories, concentrating on teen drama tropes such as cyber bullying and underage drinking.

Part coming-of-age story, part family drama, it goes long stretches with the superhero element buried in the background, not showing anyone so much as bend a spoon.

The cast - Rhenzy Feliz, Gregg Sulkin, Virginia Gardner, Allegra Acosta, Ariela Barer and Lyrica Okano - comes across as more millennial Breakfast Club than teen Avengers.

Early reaction bodes well, with reviews website Rotten Tomatoes reporting an 82 per cent approval rating with 42 out of 51 reviews certifying it "fresh". - AFP