Teen Titans: Raven by Kami Garcia, Gabriel Picolo (Illustrator): An Updated Look into the Empath’s Past

Teen Titans: RavenTeen Titans: Raven

by Kami Garcia, Gabriel Picolo (Illustrator)
Series: Teen Titans, #1
Paperback, 168 pg.
DC Ink, 2019

Read: August 2, 2019

I’ve talked here before about my love of The New Teen Titans, the 1980-96 series created by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez. They were my real first (and probably deepest) comic love. It informed and shaped my tastes in ways I probably can’t realize and definitely can’t articulate. It’s practically sacrosanct to me. So the idea of DC Comics hiring Kami Garcia (as much as I might like Garcia) to write modern takes on the origins of Raven (and, apparently, others)—whether or not Wolfman signed off on the idea—both repelled and attracted me. At least it had to be better than that Teen Titans Go! monstrosity.

You know what? I liked it.

Here’s the official blurb, in the interest of time (saving my time that is):


When a tragic accident takes the life of 17-year-old Raven Roth’s foster mom–and Raven’s memory–she moves to New Orleans to recover and finish her senior year of high school.
Starting over isn’t easy. Raven remembers everyday stuff like how to solve math equations and make pasta, but she can’t remember her favorite song or who she was before the accident. And when impossible things start happening, Raven begins to think it might even be better not to know who she was before.

But as she grows closer to her new friends, her foster sister, Max, and Tommy Torres, a guy who accepts her for who she is now, Raven has to decide if she’s ready to face what’s buried in the past…and the darkness building inside her.

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Kami Garcia and first-time graphic novel artist Gabriel Picolo comes this riveting tale of finding the strength to face who you are and learning to trust others–and yourself.

This retains enough of Raven’s original origin story (I have no idea what her post-New 52 origin is) to satisfy me, but tailored for a contemporary (and YA) audience. It feels fresh, as if Garcia had created Raven herself. Of course, Daddy (un)Dearest is waiting in the wings for a reunion with his daughter, providing the lingering threat that leads to the assembling of the Titans (or, bringing the Titans Together! as one might say). This is, of course, assuming that Garcia is heading in a Wolfman-esque trajectory, it seems that way.

Slade Wilson’s also around in a vaguely menacing way, but we’re going to have to read further installments in this series to get a strong handle on why. It’s gotta be nefarious, because it’s Wilson.

Picolo’s art is nice and dynamic. It pretty much screams motion and youth. Don’t ask me to elucidate that, when it comes to visuals, all I can do is give vague impressions. But I dug it. Picolo’s not Pérez, but who is? I’m glad he didn’t try.

The fact that I didn’t throw this across the room in disgust says a lot for me, that I enjoyed it and am looking forward to Beast Boy says much more. If you’re a dyed-in-the-wool fan or even just someone who likes non-Avengers/Justice League superheroes, you should give it a shot.

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3 Stars

2019 Library Love Challenge

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Wires and Nerve, Volume 2 by Marissa Meyer, Stephen Gilpin

Wires and Nerve, Volume 2Wires and Nerve, Volume 2: Gone Rogue

by Marissa Meyer, Stephen Gilpin (Illustrations)
Series: Wires and Nerve, #2

Hardover, 324pg.
Feiwel & Friends, 2018
Read: March 30, 2018

I’m really not sure what to say about this one. It’s part two of the story begun in Wires and Nerve where Iko is tasked with hunting down rogue Lunar wolf warriors scattered over the Earth. We also see what reforms Cinder is bringing to the Lunar government and what happens to the rest of the main characters from The Lunar Chronicles following Winter.

Honestly, I think I’m going to just copy and paste from the last book, because this is really just part 2 of that same story and my comments stay the same:

The Lunar wolf warriors are not just going to roll over, there are some that are preparing to strike back against Iko — and Cinder.

Throw in a love story, an examination of Iko’s true nature, and some nice catch-up with our old friends, and you’ve got yourself a fun story. It’s fun, but it’s light. If it were prose instead of a graphic novel, it might take 40 pages to tell this story. Which doesn’t make it bad, just slight.

I was shocked to see a different artist credited with this one — maybe my memory is shakier than I realized, but man…I thought it was the same stuff. Gilpin did a great job keeping the look the same. Yeah, cartoonish — but it fits the story. It’s dynamic, eye catching and fun — just what Iko’s story should be.

I’m glad I read these two, but I hope Meyer walks away from this world now to focus on whatever’s next. Read this if you read the first. If you’re curious about what happens after Winter, these two are a fun way to scratch that itch, but totally unessential.

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3 Stars
2018 Library Love Challenge

Wires and Nerve, Volume 1 by Marissa Meyer, Douglas Holgate

Wires and Nerve, Volume 1Wires and Nerve, Volume 1

by Marissa Meyer, Douglas Holgate (Art)
Series: Wires and Nerve, #1

Hardcover, 238 pg.
Feiwel & Friends, 2017

Read: March 1, 2017


So, in the months following Winter, life has progressed as one would expect — Cinder has strengthened her position on the Moon, Scarlet’s returned to the farm with Ze’ev Kesley, and Cress and the Captain are touring Earth. One of the loose strings that Meyer left hanging was the fate of the Lunar military troops all over Earth. They’re still out there, causing trouble.

Cinder can’t send any troops down — in the aftermath of a failed invasion, the optics alone would be bad. But . . . she can send a single operative, and Iko nominates herself for that. She spends weeks taking out pack after pack, helping local authorities take them into custody.

But they’re not just going to roll over, there are some that are preparing to strike back against Iko — and Cinder.

Throw in a love story, an examination of Iko’s true nature, and some nice catch-up with our old friends, and you’ve got yourself a fun story. It’s fun, but it’s light. If it were prose instead of a graphic novel, it might take 40 pages to tell this story. Which doesn’t make it bad, just slight.

The art was . . . oh, I don’t know — cartoonish? Not in a bad way, but I see why some people I know weren’t impressed. Once I got used to it (after about 30-40 pages), I even kind of liked it.

Basically, I’m saying that the book was okay — I enjoyed it, but man, I wanted more. At the same time, I think it delivered everything that Meyer and Holgate were looking for, so I can’t complain. Fans of the series may enjoy it, but it’s not a must read. People who haven’t read the books had best avoid it — but should probably go back and read the novels.

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3 Stars
2017 Library Love Challenge

Snotgirl, Vol. 1: Green Hair Don’t Care by Bryan Lee O’Malley, Leslie Hung

Snotgirl, Vol 1Snotgirl, Vol. 1: Green Hair Don’t Care

by Bryan Lee O’Malley (Script), Leslie Hung (Art)
Series: Snotgirl, #1

Trade Paperback, 144 pg.
Image Comics, 2017

Read: March 7, 2016


I don’t know what Bryan Lee O’Malley was doing here, really. Lottie Person is a fashion blogger, trend setter, and all around would-be Kardashian. She’s a little vapid, a little shallow, but pretty likable (don’t ask me how). Her actual life is a mess — she has horrible allergies — crazy horrible (hence the name), has been recently dumped, and maybe, just mayyyyybe killed somebody. She’s not sure — neither is the reader.

What follows (for about 80% of the book), is Lottie bouncing around between social engagements, possible hallucinations, and run-ins with her ex and his new girlfriend. Throw in a fashion-conscious cop and things get pretty interesting (and confusing).

I loved the art — it was a little strange to see this kind of art attached to O’Malley’s writing, but I really liked Hung’s work. Yeah, her white guys tend to look too much alike to easily tell the difference (that might be intentional) — but otherwise, I really liked it — everything jumped off the page, the drawings were filled with energy and life. Every time I thought about bailing because the story just wasn’t working, the art kept me in.

I just don’t know what to make of this — I enjoyed it, but man . . . I really wish I knew what was going on. I can handle it for a little bit longer — but not much. Volume 2 had better be a little clearer (or a little something else). I’m not going to wave potential readers off, but I’m not going to encourage anyone either.

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3 Stars

Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley

SecondsSeconds

by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Hardcover, 323 pg.

Ballantine Books, 2014

Read: August 14 – 15, 2015


This is a story about Katie — a pretty successful young chef, with a personal life in shambles (are there any chefs in fiction whose extra-kitchen life aren’t in shambles?), on the verge of opening her second restaurant while handing over the reins of her first. She’s been given a gift — from a source she doesn’t understand — to undo the events of one day, to rewrite history — just one, there are rules. After one not-that-terrible-but-certainly-regrettable day, she decides to use it.

Katie’s as surprised as the next guy when it works (assuming, of course, the next guy isn’t in a work of fiction). And she finds a way to break the rules. And does fixes another bad day, and another, and another and soon she’s like the guys in Richard Curtis’ (IMHO underrated) About Time, tweaking and massaging the details of the past to make her present perfect.

However, like I said, there are rules. And we all know what happens when you break the rules concerning magic. Or time travel (ask Marty McFly how things were going for him during The Enchantment Under The Sea dance). Now, actually, I thought emotionally and character-wise were richer and more interesting before the wheels come off Katie’s machinations, but it’s here where things start to count.

If I was a better judge of visual art, I’d have the vocabulary to express this next point. So apologies for that, if I’m confusing here — well, that’s what comment boxes are for. I’m not knocking in any way, the penciling here (or in other works) when I think of O’Malley’s people as cartoon-y, like children (occasionally very adult looking children) doing very non-childlike things. To me, the artwork here in O’Malley’s signature style, isn’t a fit the way it was with Scott Pilgrim. There’s a darkness to the story, a flavor to it that seems at odds with the art. Which makes the art more effective — these are twisted forces that should happen to people that look like they were drawn by Lan Medina or Peter Gross, not the fun and innocent-ish looking characters we meet in these pages. It’s more jarring, unnatural, in O’Malley’s hands.

Very entertaining, a good follow-up to his magnum opus — a different direction, feel, and populated by people with a different set of issues. Did I heart this as much as Scott Pilgrim? No. Because it’s not the kind of story I prefer. Is there anything wrong with it? No. It’s just it didn’t strike the same chord with me, mostly because O’Malley was going for a different chord. Worth your time.

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3.5 Stars