20th Nov2020

‘Teen Titans: Beast Boy’ Graphic Novel Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by Kami Garcia | Art by Gabriel Picolo | Format: Paperback, 208pp | Published by DC Comics YA

I’m getting the distinct impression that Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo enjoy two things. One, working together. This is their second effort together, after last year’s Teen Titans: Raven Young Adult book, and they have a third collaboration in the pipeline for next year. Two, they really like the Teen Titans. Garcia has it on record that her favourite character is Raven, and Picolo has made clear that his favourite is the hero this time round, Gar Logan. Their next project, announced for early next year, will come as no great surprise when I tell you it is a Raven/ Beast Boy team up. That, of course, is when creators create the best comics, when they really care about the characters.

So, Garfield Logan, who are you? As with the other Young Adult books, these characters are not quite the same as their comic book counterparts. Think of the Young Adult books as a DC Multiverse Earth, where the characters are recognizable but more realistic, relatively speaking, than their mainstream inspirations. In the same way that the Beast Boy on the Teen Titans TV show is different yet again. The YA books are less about superheroics than about telling stories about identifiable characters and situations recognizable to the target audience. Not as easy as it sounds. Interesting aside, for such a ‘young’ character Gar Logan is actually surprisingly old. He first appeared way back in 1965, so in publishing terms he is 55 years old. Maybe DC should think of an Old Adults imprint, with characters as their true age….

But I digress.

Gar Logan is unhappy. He’s 17, but looks younger. He’s stuck in the small town of Eden, Georgia, overlooked by all the cool kids at Bull Creek High School. He has parents who seemed preoccupied with their work all the time, and his only real friends are Stella and Tank. Life sucks. Gar wishes he could be in a John Hughes film, where the High School social elite recognise his talents and welcome him with open arms. Mike, Alana and Destiny seems strangely oblivious to his talents though. Yep, life sucks. It is, of course, going to seem quite attractive in retrospect by the time Gar’s story ends. After Garcia and Picolo give us a snapshot of high school shenanigans, we start to ask a few questions. Gar’s parents are scientists, but in what field? who exactly do they work for? Why does Gar have to take that daily tablet they give him? What would happen if he stopped taking it without telling them?

Quite a lot actually. Gar starts to feel a bit…funny. He doesn’t quite understand the changes happening to him yet, but his body starts to adapt itself to situations. Not physically at first, but internally. Until he grows 6 inches overnight of course, and starts to live up to the initially slightly sarcastic nickname Beast Boy. As he starts to feel stronger, and braver, he is welcomed into the cool kids group, but at the expense of his long time friends, both of whom have their own issues going on. We then get into a slightly clunky side plot involving Gar stealing a University mascot snake, and freeing some animals from a secret lab where they were experimenting on them. Well meaning, but goes on too long and lacks the drama I’m guessing it was supposed to have.

The more interesting developments concern Gar’s parents and the arrival of Slade Wilson in town, tracking Gar. Turns out Gar’s parents are H.I.V.E scientists, and have been hiding more than that from him. When he was younger, they had to inject him with an experimental serum from a rare green monkey to save his life, and the tablets they had him taking all his life were to suppress any side effects. Such as, I don’t know, turning into giant green coloured animals. Good luck explaining that. When Gar confronts his parents, it doesn’t go well, and in swoops Slade Wilson, playing the long game. He plays Gar’s friend, earning his trust, but really he’s essentially grooming him so he can take him in to H.I.V.E for experimentation. Slade did something similar for Raven. Speaking of which, Gar’s story ends as he embarks on a road trip, that will see him end up meeting a certain dark haired sorceress…

I’ve enjoyed the Young Adults book in general, though this one I must admit has me a little mixed. On the one hand, Garcia is always excellent at finding the ‘voice’ of her material, of getting the tone and character dialogue right. Her Gar is nicely realised, though the supporting cast is a little bland but then that could just be High School kids. On the other, I didn’t really feel there was enough actual story here to fill up 180 pages. Some scenes went on far too long for me, and some just felt like padding. So, interesting character and concept, but middling execution. Picolo’s art is, of course, as perfect as always for a project such as this. It’s lovely and clean, easy to read and follow, and nicely laid out. Deceptively simple looking, as a lot of clean line art is.

So, overall, I would say this was a decent book if not a great one. An authentic voice, some nice world building, and a good version of Gar well suited for the YA readership, it just lacked a little substance in parts.

Teenagers often get a bad press, but in this case, the boy really is a beast. The Beast Boy.

***½  3.5/5

Teen Titans: Beast Boy is out now.

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