Teen Titans: Raven: A Teen Titan discovers New Orlean’s voodoo

Teen Titans: Raven by Kami Garcia & Gabriel PicoloTeen Titans: Raven by Kami Garcia & Gabriel Picolo

Teen Titans: Raven by Kami Garcia & Gabriel PicoloThis recent line of graphic novels showcasing some of DC’s younger heroines seem designed to draw more girls into the world of comic books (not that there weren’t plenty before) with more emphasis not only on female characters, but their experiences as teenagers. Other additions to this series have focused on Mera, Selina Kyle and Harley Quinn, though each one is a standalone story.

As such, the writers assume that readers have no foreknowledge of DC comic books, and each one treats the characters as a “clean slate”, regardless of how well-known or popular they are.

In this case, Raven Roth is a seventeen-year old foster child about to be legally adopted when a car accident claims the life of her would-be mother. Suffering from memory loss, she is taken in by her deceased mother’s family in New Orleans.

Yes, it’s the tried-and-true cliché of the protagonist suffering from amnesia and gradually rediscovering who she is — though the odd thing is, this plot-device isn’t really necessary. Between Raven grieving for her mother, trying to adjust to a new environment, becoming involved with a boy at school, and realizing her true heritage, the amnesia feels like a glossy coating that doesn’t really add much to Teen Titans: Raven.

Had Raven known from the get-go who her true father was, there would have been little difference made to the flow of the story — in fact, it could have been even more suspenseful if Kami Garcia had worked the angle of Raven knowing exactly who her father was, and desperately trying to keep it from infecting her new life. Instead she treats Raven’s empathic and mind-reading gifts as a puzzle that needs to be solved.

Perhaps this is because Garcia is clearly more interested in Raven-the-adolescent-girl rather than Raven-the-spawn-of-a-demon, and hey — fair enough. This was probably the directive she was given when commissioned for the project, but readers should know there are more pages devoted to Raven negotiating the usual high school dramas than the supernatural, which is strewn throughout, but only really comes into play in the final chapters of the book.

Teen Titans: Raven is clearly not a story for those already familiar with the complicated backstory of Raven in DC comics, but more of a primer for anyone interested in the character (or age-appropriate graphic novels in general).

Its best feature is its gorgeous artwork by Gabriel Picolo, who uses thick inky lines to capture the characters and situations, as well as a fascinating colour scheme that’s largely black, white and different shades of purple, but which occasionally explodes into reds, yellows and greens — usually when Raven is feeling a particularly strong emotion. It’s an ingenious way of matching her inner turmoil to the visual imagery, and it works incredibly well.

The book certainly ends on an open note, though I’m not sure whether there’s going to be a sequel or not. As a standalone story it’s diverting and entertaining enough, with enough poignancy in the depiction of Raven’s character that you really feel for her. Long-time fans of the character will see her in a new context; newcomers will get a sense of what she’s about and whether they’d like to read more.

Published in 2019.

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REBECCA FISHER, with us since January 2008, earned a Masters degree in literature at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Her thesis included a comparison of how C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman each use the idea of mankind’s Fall from Grace to structure the worldviews presented in their fantasy series. Rebecca is a firm believer that fantasy books written for children can be just as meaningful, well-written and enjoyable as those for adults, and in some cases, even more so. Rebecca lives in New Zealand. She is the winner of the 2015 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best SFF Fan Writer.

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One comment

  1. I love this artwork!

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