Runaways' Creators on Why a Surprising Marvel Character Appears so Soon and Plans for Season 3

Nico wielding the Staff of One.
Image: Hulu

Because the original run of Marvel Comics’ Runaways was relatively short compared to many other series, Joshua Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, the co-creators of Hulu’s live-action adaptation, have been very deliberate about not rushing through the show’s plot in favor of taking time to build out its characters and the world they exist in. That’s what makes a certain character from Runaways lore appearing in the latter half of the sophomore season so unexpected.

But when we spoke to Savage and Schwartz, they explained that they fought for the character’s inclusion in order to lay the groundwork for future seasons of Runaways and to continue pushing for the show to be one of Marvel’s most complicated, fascinating series.

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In episode 11, “Last Waltz,” Karolina briefly encounters a strange woman (Clarissa Thibeaux) with an eerie attraction to her that, initially, makes her come across like just another member of Gibborim who’s elated to meet the child of one of the church’s most central figures. What we learn in episodes 12 and 13, however, is that the woman she’d encountered is actually the alien Xavin who, in Marvel’s comics, is the shapeshifting Skrull prince meant to marry Karolina in order to bring peace to their two warring, alien species.

In the comics, Xavin initially presents themselves as a human male, reasoning that because Karolina grew up believing herself to be an average human woman, she would most likely be interested in men.

Xavin explaining the circumstances of their arranged marriage.
Image: Takeshi Miyazawa, Craig Yeung, Christina Strain (Marvel)
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But the Xavin of Hulu’s Runaways is introduced in a female form, something that could be explained by their having been lurking in the Runaways’ hideout for days before revealing themselves to the group. Xavin’s arrival into the Runaways’ orbit occurs much later during the second volume of the original comic and under vastly different circumstances than in the show, a change that Schwartz and Savage say came about as a means of giving even more heft to Karolina’s subplots involving her relationships with the Church and with Nico.

But, Schwartz elaborated, Xavin’s canonically being a Skrull (a species of characters Marvel Studios has only just now begun to touch upon now that it has acquired the rights to 21st Century Fox’s IP including the Fantastic Four), made bringing them to Runaways something of a challenge:

Some of that stuff is decided for us, and there were a lot of high-level discussions about how we were going to have Xavin come into our camp. But obviously, Xavin’s powers and beliefs about their relationship with Karolina is part of this prophesied, cosmic love story felt really exciting to us, especially when you consider how that affects the bond that’s building between Nico and Karolina.

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According to Savage, Xavin coming into Karolina’s life is yet another kind of test of faith for her. As taken aback as she is by Xavin’s story about their love being prophesied and hundreds of thousands of years in the making, Karolina’s also someone who was raised in what’s essentially a new age cult that required her full commitment to teachings and beliefs she had no means of proving were demonstrably accurate. With so many of the mysteries of the Gibborim and its ties to aliens being borne out over the season, going forward, Xavin’s proposal is something that Karolina is also going to have to seriously consider, which is complicated given her growing romance with Nico.

To that end, the Runaways co-creators also have more than a bit in store for Nico and the rest of the Minoru family in the show’s next season.

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After spending all of season one insisting that the Staff of One was merely a very technologically-advanced piece of kit capable of pulling off feats that looked magical, Runaways makes clear that there’s a bit more to the weapon than Tina Minoru’s let on. Early into season two, Nico theorizes that the staff is capable of manipulating the four classical elements (perhaps another nod to the Fantastic Four), but by the season finale, it’s seemingly managed to bring her back to life and given her the ability to poof people out of existence much like Thanos’ Infinity Snap.

Just what the Staff of One is and what it can do, Schwartz says, is going to be a major part of Nico’s Runaways story:

There’s a lot that comes later in this season about Tina not having been entirely honest with Robert and Nico about the staff and exploring the truth about the staff is going to be one of the bigger season 3 stories.

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Runaways’ second season is now streaming on Hulu.


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About the author

Charles Pulliam-Moore

io9 Culture Critic and Staff Writer. Cyclops was right.