Review – Teen Titans: Raven: A New Beginning

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Teen Titans: Raven cover, via DC Comics.

Teen Titans: Raven – Kami Garcia, Writer; Gabriel Picolo, Illustrator; Jon Sommariva, Emma Kubert, Inkers; David Calderon, Colorist

Rating:

Ray – 8.5/10

Ray: Of all the books in the line formerly known as DC Ink, Teen Titans: Raven was probably the most anticipated by a large audience. The first of a six-book cycle by young adult author Kami Garcia, it’s going to reinvent the core five Teen Titans from the original cartoon series with more grounded and relatable origins that plant them squarely in situations similar to those faced by regular teenagers.

However, the top draw may be the art by former fanartist Gabriel Picolo, best known for his series of art pieces nicknamed “Casual Teen Titans”, which showed the Titans in everyday situations like Robin and Starfire out on a date, or Beast Boy and Raven relaxing at home with their dog. The lush art kept the characters’ distinctive traits intact while moving them seamlessly from the cartoony art of the series to a more realistic style.

Garcia and Picolo’s opening chapter of the most ambitious graphic novel series yet largely lives up to expectations, but it does have some pacing issues that worry me. If this is going to be a yearly series – with the Beast Boy edition coming next in Summer 2020 – it’s going to be a long time before any of these characters meet or have a second adventure.

First day of school. Via DC Comics.

The good news is, right now Raven’s story is compelling enough that this is an easily forgivable plot issue. When we meet Raven, she’s a seventeen-year-old girl about to be adopted by her loving foster mother, although she still has many concerns about her haunted past. When a car crash kills her foster mother and leaves her with a severe head injury, she’s left without many of her memories as she attempts to adapt to a new home – with her late foster mother’s sister Natalia and her teenager daughter Max.

This OGN is heavily driven by character interaction, and the 170-page story does take a while to get going as Raven bonds with her new family and tries to adjust to a new school. Max proves a loyal friend and she tries to help acquaint Raven to the best people at the school, but it doesn’t take long before a bully sets her sights on the weird new girl.

That’s where we first see the signs of Raven’s darker origins, as everything she seems to wish would happen to the bully starts to happen. There are shades of Carrie in this story, as a misfit girl with odd telekinetic powers sees them start to spiral out of control due to harassment. There’s even a big climax at prom – although thankfully no pig’s blood is involved. Max is one of the unsung heroes of this story, getting some of the best lines. However, an ongoing subplot for her and an annoyingly persistent boy who wants to be more than friends doesn’t really go anywhere one way or another.

The biggest character, aside from Raven, Natalia, and Max, is a new character named Tommy set up as Raven’s first love interest. A charming boy who reaches out to Raven when she is at her lowest, he seems too good to be true – which, of course, is exactly what he is. It’s not too hard to see which direction this is going when Tommy is seen talking to his “uncle”, a large menacing man with an eyepatch.

An old nightmare. Via DC Comics.

Raven’s two most iconic villains lurk around the fringes of this issue – Slade and Trigon – but only one fulfills his plan in this issue while the other is waiting for a later volume to make his full move. The big standout of this graphic novel isn’t the villains, though – it’s the heroes. Raven and especially Max – who seems to be set up as part of a major legacy along with her mother and potentially as a new superhero herself – make a compelling team and I’m excited to see more about them in future volumes.

The art by Picolo is strong, although it’s a lot less detailed than his fanart. Like the two previous installments in this line, there’s minimal color in the art and it comes off as minimalist, but the core characters are distinct and the villains are drawn menacingly. A preview of the Beast Boy OGN at the end doesn’t work quite as well for me, because Beast Boy is kind of a smug character and he doesn’t work as well for an introspective story like this.

Raven, though, is the perfect character to launch this series. Her biggest enemy has always been her fear of herself and her origins, so watching her struggle to discover her past and gain control of her abilities is a compelling read.

Thus far, all three DC Ink graphic novels have been nothing short of excellent, adding new wrinkles to the early years of three of DC’s greatest heroines.

To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.

Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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