TEEN TITANS: RAVEN
Writer: Kami Garcia
Artist: Gabriel Picolo
Publisher: DC Ink
WHAT IS IT?
A young adult graphic novel about the super-heroine/teenager Raven, an 18-year-old amnesiac high school student that might be the daughter of Trigon, who is basically Satan.
Think Sabrina the Teenage Witch meets Teen Titans with some Mean Girls for flavor.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
A mysterious orphan girl, Raven Roth, survives a tragic car accident that killed her foster mom, but suffers amnesia as a result. After moving to New Orleans with her knew foster mom, the old one’s sister, she must carry on with her life even as she knows nothing about it.
As Raven struggles with her identity, she makes friends, forms a relationship with a boy, and slowly discovers her latent psychic abilities. All the while, a troubling voice is growing louder in her head, one that’s familiar and terrifying, but nearly impossible to push away.
Raven must learn to take control of her life, her emotions, and her relationships before the evil presence within her takes over and lays waste to all creation.
The book hits real emotional highs and lows without ever sinking to the level of just another teenage melodrama, something Kami Garcia is well respected for in the world of YA.
The characters, from the protagonist to the most tertiary side character, always feel layered and motivated, never caricatured.
Picolo’s art is incredibly detailed and gorgeous while maintaining a sense of cartoonish simplicity. It impresses without feeling distant or unrelatable.
I was blown away by the panel work on every page. It actively works to avoid boxing everything up too much and manages to pull off a free flowing pace without becoming confusing or questionably laid out.
David Calderon’s color is used sparsely which both emphasizes important moments and actions in a simple and impressive way and fits with the themes of the book. The muted colors reflect the muted way the protagonist is forced to live her life.
There’s a surprising amount of wit and humor that feels authentically young adult. It tows the line between mature and immature convincingly and captures the age of the characters well through jokes and personality quirks.
Deals with issues that aren’t often explored adequately in interesting ways. Most notably, the protagonist suffers from sensory overload which is portrayed with care and with excellent visuals.
Portrays a lesbian relationship and homophobia in a succinct, non-preachy way.
There are tons of little details in the book that accurately present New Orleans’s Cajun culture to impressive effect.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
This comes down to personal preference, but the book’s pacing goes at a mile-a-minute. This is due to its YA nature and it’s something you may like, but I felt the book could have spent longer in almost every given situation and benefited from it.
The lettering borders the line between “charmingly indie” and “amateurish.” It gets the job done well enough, but it’s not great no matter how you cut it. The balloons often feel cookie cutter and bland and the font doesn’t read particularly well. I suspect they were going for something specific to tie in the feelings of the characters, but I didn’t feel that it paid off.
Certain themes are somewhat underdeveloped. Again, this comes down to the fast pacing and genre, but there were important points that could landed better.
The story relies heavily on amnesia which, as far as storytelling goes, is barely above someone’s evil twin tricking their lover into blah blah blah melodrama.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
There’s not a lot of YA that really does it for me, but Garcia & Picolo’s Raven is impressive not only on an artistic level but as a story. It accurately and unflinchingly tells a young girl’s story in a way anyone could relate to.
There’s a ton of really important messages in the book (particularly for its target audience) about identity, manipulation, emotions, and trauma that are elegantly delivered. Through all of this, it still manages to be a fun superhero adventure with familiar and relatable characters in an interesting setting with incredible art and panel work.
If you loved the Teen Titans cartoon from the 2000s, you’ll love this portrayal of the character. It’s completely separate from that interpretation, but maintains the same spirit that made the show great in the first place.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity by Kami Garcia & Mark Mayhew/Mico Suayan
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: The Crucible by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa & Robert Hack
Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol
If you like the art:
Icarus and the Sun by Gabriel Picolo
Spider-Gwyn Vol. 0: Most Wanted? By Jason Latour & Robbi Rodriguez
Sea of Stars by Dennis Hopeless & Jason Aaron
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Kami Garcia – Writer
New Face: Kami Garcia is well known as a YA novelist, but this is her first graphic novel. Way to hit the ground running!
Multitalented: Garcia has had a career as an artist and teacher and continues to enjoy success in both fields even while publishing novels and novellas.
Garcia appears to be enjoying her debut with DC as she’s already slated to write a sequel, Teen Titans: Beast Boy and a Joker/Harley nine-issue maxi-series set to debut in October of 2019.
Gabriel Picolo – Artist
Name Recognition: You may recognize Gabriel Picolo from his illustrations of the teen titans in his fanzine “Casual.” The series went viral on social media a few years ago and landed him the job drawing Raven.
Outlander: Picolo is from and continues to work out of Sao Paulo, Brazil. He is well known in the states from his strong social media presence and successful Indigogo campaigns.
Rising Star: Picolo doesn’t have many credits to his name, mostly webcomics and illustrations, but his popularity is exploding and his sanctioned work at DC means we’ll be seeing a lot more of his work.
David Calderon – Colorist
New Face: Calderon doesn’t have many credits to his name, but has been reliably working with DC since 2016.
Tom Napolitano – Letterer
Prolific: Napolitano has over 300 credits on comics from DC alone. He’s well known in the industry as a hard-working, well respected letterer, which has gotten him work on Batman, Justice League, and Aquaman repeatedly.
WHERE DO I BUY IT?
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