25th Jul2019

‘Teen Titans: Raven’ Graphic Novel Review (DC Ink)

by Dean Fuller

Written by Kami Garcia | Art by Gabriel Picolo | Published by DC Ink


I have already read and reviewed two of the DC Ink books, featuring Mera and Selina Kyle, and enjoyed both quite a lot. Though, as DC’s foray into the Young Adult book market, these were not aimed at me, I read them with a view to try and understand the audience they were pitched at, and they did that job beautifully. They took typical teen themes such as angst, alienation and social awkwardness, and married them with younger versions of future superheroes like Catwoman, Aquaman’s future wife Mera and now, Raven, from the Teen Titans. It says a lot for the versatility of these characters that they adapt so well to this new approach. Although, to be fair, Kami Garcia with this book had an easier time than most, Raven already has some pretty good emo chops already.

We already knew Selina Kyle and Mera pretty well from a pretty long publishing history, so their books had to essentially retro-fit these teen storylines to them, in at least a semi-organic way. Raven was created as a teen character already fully formed, and either based on her comic book appearances (created, as she was, by the great Marv Wolfman and equally great George Perez) or her hilarious portrayal in the Teen Titans cartoon, she has always been withdrawn, sullen, humourless etc. Actually, when you think of it, a teen with super powers is damn scary. Still, the DC Ink books like character to be front and centre, and powers firmly in the background, so I was genuinely interested to see how Kami Garcia would approach this.

We start, in pretty dramatic fashion, with a car crash. Raven, or Rachel Roth as she is known, is in a car with her foster mother which overturns, leaving her foster mother dead. Raven’s suffers memory loss, not knowing who she is, and while recovering is taken in by her dead foster mother’s sister, who lives in New Orleans. There she meets Max, or meets again a grown up Max she knew as a little girl, who is the daughter of her new foster mother. Raven is clearly a very private person, and is the typical goth teen. Dresses in black, died purple hair, big chunky Doc Marten’s on etc. We all know one. Some of us were one. Ahem. What’s not so typical for Raven is firstly the nightmares about some demonic creature, and the seemingly newfound ability to hear other people’s thoughts and to influence them too. Yikes.

The first manifestation of these abilities is, with I’m sure the full approval of John Hughes, in your typical American High School. The same old groups are in there, cheerleaders, cool kids, geek kids, the outsiders. It’s like the 80’s never went away. Raven starts to discover she must be careful what she wishes, as it seems to come true, though she still doesn’t believe it. And who exactly is that voice she keeps hearing? real or not? good or bad? And who is that mystery man watching her? In among all this angst Raven meets a boy, a fellow classmate called Tommy, who seems just a tad too nice, but I say that as a father of a young daughter myself. Always suspicious. Tommy’s probably fine. Tommy tries hard to get Raven to open us a little , which she actually starts to do.

As Raven is still struggling with these internal voices and emotions, Max takes her to meet a Voodoo priestess called Eliza. Eliza reveals to Raven that she is an empath, and Max clearly knows a whole lot more about things than she first let on, as she helps show Raven how to shield herself. Oh, and that guy tailing her? Slade Wilson, Deathstroke himself. Turns out he and Tommy know each other, and that Raven has been set up, though Tommy regrets it as he genuinely has fallen for Raven. We end with a good old fashioned throw down, as Trigon, Raven’s demonic father, reveals himself and Raven’s stepmum reveals herself as pretty kickass too. Even Max has some skills. Although the fight is between Trigon and everyone else, the real battle is within Raven herself. Does her heritage define her, or her actions? A perfect blending of the twin superhero/ teen genre tropes.

Throughout the book Kami Garcia gets the tone just right. There is just the right blend of teen angst with the larger, supernatural story, of typical teen pursuits and interests with the superhero angle. Not as easy as you would think marrying those things together. The dialogue throughout is well delivered and always sounds authentic, and Garcia has a great handle on her story and characters. it flows nicely over the entire 168 pages. I really enjoyed the High School teen stuff mixed in with the developing of Raven’s powers too. All nicely done. The art, by Gabriel Picolo, was perfect for the story. Easy to read, easy to follow, and always enhancing the script. Some of the larger panels were brilliantly done, though the final Trigon scenes were a little bit too loose at times. His Raven though was gorgeously drawn.

Although I can firmly recommend this for the Young Adult audience it is intended for, I can honestly say I enjoyed it just on its own merits. I would place this as the best of the DC Ink books to date. If the Beast Boy preview, also by Kami Garcia, is anything to go by, DC have a good thing going here. As someone who actually read Raven’s first appearance when she first appeared as a Teen Titan , I can say this approach to her is excellent, and is as affectionately done as you could wish for.

May not be the Raven you remember, but it is most definitely Raven.

****½  4.5/5

Teen Titans: Raven is out now from DC Ink.


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