TEEN TITANS: RAVEN
Author: Kami Garcia
Artist: Gabriel Picolo with Jon Sommariva and Emma Kubert
Colorist: David Calderon
Letterer: Tom Napolitano
Publisher: DC Comics
Imprint: DC Ink
DC INK is the DC Comics line of books specifically catered to Young Adult readers. Kami Garcia is no stranger to the YA world of books. She co-wrote BEAUTIFUL CREATURES that since then has been a staple of YA novels. Here in TEEN TITANS: RAVEN she pairs up with beloved artist Gabriel Picolo to introduce Raven to a new generation of readers.
Raven is incredibly important to me. Raven's character is drenched in darkness with her being the daughter of the dangerous demon, Trigon, and all that jazz. This makes her half-human and half-demon. She inherits demonic powers from Trigon where she can manipulate people's emotions and energies. Her biggest struggle as a character is too make sure she never feels any emotion to an extreme where Trigon can be unleashed. This means she suppresses herself to keep everyone around her safe. Her biggest desire is to live a happy, normal life.
Kami truly understands Raven to a tee. I loved how she wrote this newer take on her. All of the aforementioned information is given to us throughout the novel. I often find that since Raven's struggle is her emotions, writers can make her feel very indifferent and inhuman in a sense. She is nothing but a dark, broody, pit of disinterest and that always makes me sad. That isn’t the case with this novel’s version of Raven. She is a modern teen. Due to some unfortunate events, she gets a new stepfamily and with that a new half-sister named Max. This is a new addition to Raven’s origin story but I enjoyed it because it humanizes Raven so well. Raven likes boys, enjoys talking to her sister, wants to go to prom, drinks tea with her friends, and so much more. For a character who usually finds her sense of home with the Teen Titans, it’s refreshing to see her origin story still centering around her issues with trigon while still being a literal teenage girl. I found it refreshing and enjoyable that she was grounded, realistic, and modern. While I think her day to day life interactions with others was done superbly, I did take issue with the stakes and climax of this novel. Raven realizing she needs to defeat Trigon is thrown to the side until it just happens. The same goes for the introduction of Slade Wilson (AKA Deathstroke, the main villain of the Teen Titans). Slade uses the good old’ one-two and uses a boy to manipulate Raven’s feelings to unleash Trigon. It wasn’t that it was written poorly. It just feels very predictable, cliche, and novice. I suppose I cannot be too mad seeing as a lot of Young Adult writing is generally like this. As a more mature reader, I find it entertaining but I wish the stakes of the book felt more present throughout.
Aside from the writing, the art and coloring for TEEN TITANS: RAVEN is made for me. I have no reservations with stating that I am incredibly biased towards Gabriel Picolo’s art. I have been following him and his art on Instagram for years. I found him because he did fan art of modern versions of the Teen Titans. So, seeing the art for this book was delightful. Picolo’s style is cartoony, inky, and expressive. Each character’s design is unique and filled with passion. I love all the subtleties found from just the T-shirts Gabriel draws on his characters. Pay close attention to those t-shirts because they reveal a lot of unspoken character traits without having to have the characters verbally express it. His approach to modern designs helps the atmosphere of the novel. Everything in this universe feels real to me because as someone who was a teenager only 3 years ago, I can feel and remember my teen years through the pages. David Calderon excels with the coloring. He uses watercolors that help the atmosphere dramatically. Everything is grey scaled except for Raven who is fully colored. The purples in her hair and the red of her necklace are always accentuated. I love that. Every time Raven experiences happiness to a degree, that scene is filled with more color. It’s a nice visual representation of Raven opening herself up to people.
I thoroughly enjoyed TEEN TITANS: RAVEN. It’s a great addition to the YA line of DC books. It’s a good entry point for newer fans to jump in. If I was a teenager, I would give this book a 10/10 and personally I feel the same because I just love Raven with all of my heart. However, objectively, this novel is very cliche with not a lot of great pacing once it’s time for the climax of the story and that is a little disappointing. I do think the characterization of Raven and her life as a teen outweighs those issues though. Gabriel’s art shines in his first-ever feature graphic novel. This book is simple, sweet, and adorable. If you’re a fan Raven, I think you’ll find this enjoyable and a solid addition to Raven’s comic history.