TEEN TITANS: RAVEN (2019) review

Teen Titans: Raven (DC Comics)

Teen Titans: Raven is available now where all good comics and books are sold!

Synopsis

When a tragic accident takes the life of seventeen-year-old Raven Roth’s foster mom–and Raven’s memory–she moves to New Orleans to live with her foster mother’s family and finish her senior year of high school.

Starting over isn’t easy. Raven remembers how to solve math equations and make pasta, but she can’t remember her favorite song or who she was before the accident. When strange things start happening–impossible things–Raven starts to think it might be better not to know who she was in her previous life. 

But as she grows closer to her foster sister, Max, her new friends, and Tommy Torres, a guy who accepts her for who she is now, Raven has to decide if she’s ready to face what’s buried in the past…and the darkness building inside her.

From the #1 New York Times bestselling co-author of Beautiful Creatures Kami Garcia, and artist Gabriel Picolo, comes this first graphic novel in the Teen Titans series for DC Ink, Teen Titans: Raven.

Review

Raven is my first foray in to the world of DC Comics YA graphic novels. Having previously covered the book for entering its fourth printing I thought it was about time to see what has got readers so interested in this latest branch of DC Entertainment releases.

Raven tells an origin story, of sorts, for Rachel Roth but is written to appeal to an audience who has little-to-no knowledge of her complex history in the pages of DC Comics. What is abundantly clear from the outset is that Kami Garcia has an understanding of that complex history but also an excellent ability to be able to pitch the character to a new audience.

Raven is still recognisable to those who have been reading Teen Titans comics for decades, or who know the character through Teagen Croft’s portrayal in DC Universe’s Titans. There’s a clear reverence for the source material which I truly appreciated throughout the narrative, but it’s balanced by a fresh and unique approach.

Garcia injects the character which a healthy dose of teenage drama. We meet the character as she is rapidly approaching her high school graduation and with prom on the horizon, she has classes, school bullies and boys to contend with on top of the lingering presence of her father, Trigon.

It’s this added teenage drama which will help make Raven appeal to the YA audience. DC Comics own Dan DiDio recently told fans at New York Comic Con that YA fiction and manga are two of the industry’s biggest growing facets and that DC characters needed to move in to these markets. I this book is anything to go by then there is plenty of potential to continue this line for years to come.

Without wishing to heap a tonne of pressure on Garcia for the future – with Teen Titans: Beast Boy due in Summer 2020 – there’s an air of Buffy the Vampire Slayer to this book. The mixed ensemble cast; strong female lead and demonic subject matter certainly reflect that pop culture phenomenon in many ways. 

Garcia brilliants balances the magical elements of the book against those dramatic teenage moments. Raven could also be likened to YA safe media like Sabrina the Teenage Witch (the 90s version no Netflix) as its very much high school based and has that overall lighter air to it. What Garcia doesn’t do is bog the story down in its demonic origins to create a gloomy “emo” tone.

But lest we not forget that this is also a graphic novel. Gabriel Picolo matches the storytelling flare of Garcia with some truly unique imagery in the book. His use of colour as an accent is particularly unique. 

Much of the book is black and white, using shades of grey for shadows, skin tones and other depth. But at key moments Picolo will introduce natural skin tones, or a purple hue to the tips of Raven’s hair and it brings so much to those moments that I couldn’t put the book down.

As the story builds towards its third act the number of panels featuring colour continues to increase. It never succumbs to the lure of going full colour. It’s more like when Raven’s emotions swell so do the colours. As we reach our inevitable climax Raven relaxes back to its black and white beginnings.

It’s inspired storytelling in every way.

Highlight moments include the first time Raven’s soul-self materialises in the form of a bird. That particular panel stood out to me so much when I first read the book that I immediately tweeted the image. It was certainly the moment Raven truly grabbed my attention.

Other highlights include a subplot featuring Deathstroke. As a (or should that be THE) classic Titans villain it was great to see him included in this book even in a small role. It will be interesting to see if this storyline is fleshed out in Beast Boy and future Teen Titans YA novels.

Verdict

Raven is a visually stunning glimpse in to the world of one of the Teen Titans most compelling characters. Garcia has crafted a strong yet simple story which helps make the complex character history easily accessible to all readers.

8/10

Teen Titans: Raven is written by Kami Garcia with illustrations by Gabriel Picolo.


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About Neil Vagg 3997 Articles
Neil is the GYCO Editorial Chief. He has a BA in Film & Tv and an MA in Scriptwriting; he currently works 9-5 as an office manager and 5-9 as a reviewer/web designer. He has been subscribing to comics for around nine years but has been reading them as long as he can remember. Favourite comics: Batman; Nightwing, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and All New X-Men Favourite films: Batman (any apart from & Robin); Star Trek Generations, Underworld, Beetlejuice Favourite TV shows: Fringe; Buffy, Arrow, TBBT, Being Human UK and Star Trek TNG