Teen Titans: Beast Boy – Kami Garcia, Writer; Gabriel Picolo, Rob Haynes, Artists; David Calderon, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
Ray: The second in the series by Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo, Teen Titans: Beast Boy is a major change in pace from the Raven OGN released last year. While that was a high-stakes story about a girl dealing with amnesia and demonic heritage, and pitted her against a pair of the most dangerous villains in Teen Titans history, this book is almost deliberately low-scale. It’s a charming tale of a teenage boy trying to find his identity—and he just so happens to have strange animal-like abilities that play less of a role in the story than you’d expect. Done in a green-tinged style, it at times feels more like a prequel or first installment than a stand-alone comic, but the laid-back tone works for the story.
When we meet Garfield Logan, he’s 17 and frustrated by his lack of muscle growth as he tries to bodybuild his way towards the perfect senior year. Could the source be the mysterious supplements his overprotective scientist parents have made him take since his childhood in Sierra Leone? Comic fans likely know the answer to that, but Gar is in the dark. As he returns to school and tries to overcome his reputation as a wimp, he’s backed up by his two best friends—African-American gamer/activist Stella and good-hearted Asian-American jock Tank. Gar’s race is never specified but he seems definitely darker-skinned than he is in most versions, so there’s some notable added diversity to this comic.
The bulk of the story is devoted to Gar climbing the social ladder in his school after he stops taking his supplement in a desperate attempt to kick-start his growth. This causes all sorts of weird symptoms and plays into the story in a hilarious way involving a super-spicy pepper and a YouTube stunt channel. This book is surprisingly crude in places—there are a LOT of jokes about crapping one’s pants in one segment—but overall it feels like a genuine look at the teen struggle for popularity. Like the recent Lois Lane and the Friendship Challenge, this almost feels like the DNA of a DC character put into an original teen story, but I see many more traits of Gar’s classic personality and backstory here than I did for Lois.
It takes a while for the main plot to get going, as the biggest threat in the first half of the book is a sneering high school bully and the tensest segment involves stealing a giant snake from a nearby college. With a strong animal-rights message, it’s a good setup for Gar’s future as a superhero animal-lover. The tension increases once a certain one-eyed mercenary shows up, but unlike in Raven’s story, he’s not really an antagonist. He’s playing a long game and trying to manipulate Gar for reasons that will play out in the upcoming third volume. Plans for Starfire, Robin, and Cyborg to get their own volumes seem to have been put on hold, but this is a fun and modern reinvention of the TT mythology with two compelling lead characters so far.
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GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.