Teen Titans has been a staple of DC Comics since 1964, starring the young proteges of the Justice League such as Robin, Kid Flash, Aqualad and Wonder girl. In future editions they teamed up with other heroes, but it wasn’t until the series was relaunched in the 1980s that a new team figuration was used. Nowadays it’s the group that’s most well-known, involving Beast Boy, Cyborg, Raven, Robin, and Starfire. This is the team composition that a lot of fans such as Gabriel Picolo decided to capitalise on; partially due to an early 2000s TV show featuring these specific characters.
Gabriel Picolo gained traction with his depictions of Icarus and the Sun, humanising the famed myth and in turn attracting the attention of DC Comics. Picolo’s DC fame came through his own interpretations of the Titans in casual day-to-day situations like shopping, going to petrol stations, and living together. Kami Garcia started with novels, working with friend Margaret Stohl to create the Caster Chronicles which began with the novel Beautiful Creatures. In 2013, four years after being published for the first time, Beautiful Creatures hit big screens and eventually was transformed into a graphic novel. Yet this DC Comics trilogy is her first journey into writing a graphic novel and blossomed into a promising career at DC with another project, with even bigger DC characters.
Picolo’s first work with DC was Teen Titans: Raven back in 2018 and flourished into a trilogy cultivating in the beginning of the relationship between Beast Boy and Raven, a well-known and loved ‘ship’ in Teen Titans fan circles. Picolo’s adaptation is the first to make the couple canon while having been a fan favourite since their run in the early Cartoon Network Teen Titans show. Garcia’s light flirting embellishes the pair’s connection, bringing a nostalgia for any long-standing fans of the franchise, however even newcomers like myself can’t help but feel the natural pull between the two characters.
It was my love of Picolo’s art that led me to getting involved with the series, and it was Beast Boy Loves Raven that I read first. Starting with the newest of the trilogy was an odd choice but I found myself already invested in their relationship from Picolo’s Instagram; luckily for me Picolo and Garcia give brief recaps of the two previous novels (which are the backstories of the individual characters); this third novel is the beginnings of the Teen Titans getting together, with allusions to Starfire being the next to join the gang.
Beast Boy Loves Raven does what it says on the tin, it’s the latest story arc of their relationship, and quite possibly the most aesthetically desirable take on the franchise yet. There’s been a longstanding expectation of the two characters; they’re polar opposites – Raven the dark, moody character to Beast Boy’s energetic, and cheeky character. They shouldn’t work, yet they complement each other’s personality well; Picolo and Garcia continue this tradition and keep their differences while showing how they make each other better, Beast Boy bringing out Raven’s fun side while Raven gets Beast Boy to take things more seriously.
For the story, we follow Raven and Beast Boy in their journey to find ‘help’ for their newfound superpowers. They’re double crossed and trafficked into their supposed ‘help’s’ (Slade Wilson) programme to weaponize super powered individuals. Along the way we learn Raven’s foster sister Max has followed her out of loving concern and we meet Robin (Damien Wayne). Together with the help of Beast Boy’s monkey Kong and some amenable ghosts – courtesy of Max’s inherited psychic powers – they escape Wilson and his associates, now forced to live a life of constantly looking over their shoulder. Along the way Beast Boy and Raven speed run a relationship, accidentally go on several dates, and inadvertently have to ‘come out’ to each other with their powers. It’s got everything a superhero comic needs, a mysterious bad guy with ulterior motives, a couple of teenagers crushing on each other and the son of an international assassin teaming up with a ghost whisperer.
Now, Picolo was the main reason I decided to read this novel; his art style is a glorious mix of vibrancy and atmospheric colouring bringing a certain realism to the story. While obviously the story has different settings, it contains the same vibe throughout; one of late nights under neon lights, outside a ‘gas’ station with your friends and just general good times. At least that’s how it makes me feel throughout. It’s enjoyable, fun and has all the right moments of tenseness that superhero stories need. There’s only one part that made me cringe and read a slight bit quicker, which was when Raven and Beast Boy separate at the end of their first ‘date’… from a romance story point of view I see the necessity; it’s for the angst, but it didn’t really matter since they run into each other again the following day.
Overall it’s a great comic, it has a nice pace and good storytelling. It sells the Titans as kids rather than superheroes, but does an impressive job of setting them up for a good comic run. Picolo’s drawing brings a more human side to these usually untouchable heroes while Garcia’s quick quips tie it all together to remind the readers that at the end of the day, they’re teenagers. I’d recommend Beast Boy Loves Raven to anybody looking for a light superhero comic with some darker undertones; the perfect place to begin a long and obsessive path into DC Comics.