Where the Wonder Women Are: #34 Molly Hayes/Bruiser of the Runaways

Okay, I have another favourite. Don’t tell Gert! But how can you not love an eleven-year-old who goes by the superhero name Bruiser?

Well, she was Princess Powerful first, but even that is pretty awesome.

Molly is the one element of the Runaways series which makes it a far more morally crunchy story, and helps to take some of the potentially romantic gloss off the running away plot. When the teens discover that their parents are evil – and not just a bit evil, but probably going to sacrifice all of us in their bid to rule the world evil – their first moral quandary is what to do about Molly. She’s one of them, she has to be, but they are all in their mid to late teens, and while running away isn’t a choice they take lightly, it feels like the responsible thing to do.

Choosing to take the eleven-year-old from her parents raises all of the stakes, and a great deal of tension in the story comes from the part that this ragtag bunch of teenagers have dragged the far more innocent Molly along with them. It doesn’t help that Molly doesn’t believe in the evil of their parents, isn’t entirely sure why they are on the run anyway, and pretty much thinks everything is a big fun game.

Protecting Molly’s feelings and her sensibilities became a key priority to all of the other Runaways, and they often tried to shield her from the darker side of what was going on. This meant of course that she was often blithely oblivious to some of the harsher realities in the story – but also forced the others to keep their hopes up and their game faces on. Pretending it was okay for her was often the only thing that kept the whole team going, and united.

But Molly isn’t as vulnerable as she looks. Each of them have strange powers or abilities to be unveiled, and Molly’s is far more grounded in Marvel Universe traditions than the rest of them – she is a mutant.

More to the point, she is a super strong mutant. While this has a lot of fun ‘metaphor for growing up’ material to it, Molly’s experience as a Runaway is mostly a positive one at first. She buys into the idea of them being superheroes pretty easily, choosing the name Princess Powerful for herself, and is often the comic relief rather than an angst-ridden character (though she has her moments).

Molly not only has a ‘kid sister’ relationship with each of the Runaways, especially Chase and Gert, she also later develops a similar friendship with Wolverine, who does rather have a tendency to adopt feisty young teen girls and show them how worthwhile they are. (Also one time, she took Wolverine out with a single punch. Yeah, girl!)

Her super strength started out in fits and brief bursts of energy – while her strength itself seemed limitless (she could fight monsters bigger than skyscrapers, tunnel through miles of rock, have heavy objects broken over her head, etc.) she would often reach her limits afterwards by crashing into deep sleep in order to recover. This lessened as she grew more experienced at using her strength.

Her fatigue issues could be a problem if she was still in mid-fight – Nico once gave her a magical caffeine rush to keep Molly awake as she battled a particularly hardy monster.

Molly’s eyes glow pink when she uses her powers, as do those of her parents. It’s a really creepy effect.

More than any of the characters, Runaways explores the theme of ‘growing up’ through Molly. She doesn’t have a mother around to talk ‘girl stuff’ with – like her period – and so Gert, Karolina and Nico have to take that role for her. Also sometimes, Chase. In later volumes (the ones I haven’t read!) Molly takes on more responsibility as a team member. When the potentially unreliable cyborg Victor joins their team, Nico puts Molly in charge of ‘babysitting’ him because she is the only one with the strength to take him down if he goes rogue – and as with Chase, Molly develops a big brother-little sister friendship with Victor.

Gert was absolutely Molly’s role model, in smartassery as well as general humanity, and she struggled with her loss after Gert’s death, often continuing to talk to her in her absence.

Molly’s generally bright view on life, and her innocence as to the seriousness of the world, was used against her by a villain who revealed the true evil of her parents and their deeds. His plan was to kill her as part of his revenge against the Hayes. While Molly and Wolverine did beat him, she was deeply shaken by his revelations as she had lost the last of her illusions about her parents.

Wolverine assured her that no matter what else they had done, her parents must have loved her for her to turn out such a good kid.

Everybody, awww.

Thanks to her mutant identity, Molly seems to have been folded more neatly into the Marvel Universe, and often turns up in cameo appearances in other titles. She was one of the 200 mutants who retained their powers after the House of M storyline that depowered so many. In 2009, a poll about the most powerful female characters in the Marvel Universe ranked her fourth, after Rogue, She-Hulk and Ms Marvel.

Now I want to see her in a She-Hulk title as Jennifer Walters’ intern. What a team up that would be!

Where the Wonder Women Are:
0: Introduction
1: Black Canary
2: Rogue
3: Hawkgirl/Hawkwoman
4: Black Widow
5: Wonder Girl
6: Captain Marvel
7: Vixen
8: Abigail Brand
9. Jubilee
10. Batwoman
11. Catwoman
12. Huntress
13. Robin
14. Batgirl
15. Jean Grey
16. Ice
17. Emma Frost
18. Fire
19. Lady Sif
20. Supergirl
21. The Wasp
22. Gypsy
23. Misty Knight (and Colleen Wing)
24. Mystek
25. Kitty Pryde
26. Crimson Fox
27. The Invisible Woman
28. Dr Light
29. Hawkeye
30. Maya
31. Nico Minoru
32. Karolina Dean
33. Gert Yorkes/Arsenic & Old Lace

One reply

  1. Kirstie says:

    I concur, I’d definitely read a She-Hulk/Molly Hayes team-up. I also need to catch up on the last couple of years of the Runaways.
    I really love and appreciate this entire series of posts you’re writing.

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