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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Review Catch Up: Beautiful Redemption; Breach Zone; Chasing the Prophecy; Fiddlehead

I’ve got a backlog of 40-plus reviews I’ve been meaning to write — some of them, I just have to admit aren’t going to get done. But I’m going to try my level best. The four books I’ve decided to tackle in one fell swoop are the concluding novels from series I enjoy, and yet I’ve had trouble reviewing them. On the whole, there’s no reason for it — I should’ve had at least a few paragraphs of material on these, but I can’t seem to muster it (especially given how much time has gone by).

But I do want to clear these off my to-do list, so, without further ado, a few words on these series finales:

Beautiful RedemptionBeautiful Redemption

by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Paperback, 451 pg.
Penguin Books, 2012
Read: November 19 – 20, 2013

On the one hand, this was not at all like the rest of the series — and yet it was a very fitting conclusion. Garcia and Stohl wrapped up everything that needed wrapped up, answered every lingering question (not always as I expected), and generally, did so in an emotionally satisfying way. I wouldn’t have thought that this book would lead to a spin-off series, but it fits.

If you’re into Paranormal YA, this was a very satisfying conclusion, and probably the best of that genre I’ve read.
4 Stars

Breach ZoneBreach Zone

by Myke Cole

eBook, 384 pg.
Ace, 2014
Read: January 31 – February 04, 2014

I really, really liked all of Myke Cole’s Shadow Ops series — a gritty, believable mix of Contemporary Military and Fantasy, and yet, I’ve never reviewed one of his books. Don’t ask me why.

This, the conclusion to the trilogy, is just outstanding. You know how at the end of (pretty much) every fantasy novel, there’s this big, epic battle that takes up most of the last ¼ – ⅓ of the novel? That’s pretty much this entire book. Okay, not really — there’s plenty of backstory, character development and wrapping up the trilogy. But while reading, it sure felt like it was an epic fantasy battle on the streets and in the waters of New York. Somewhere in there, Cole looks gain at questions of patriotism, duty, ethics and morality — and how people of integrity can try to harmonize them all (and, more often, how those with integrity can’t harmonize them all). Seriously, awesome stuff.
4 Stars

Chasing the ProphecyChasing the Prophecy

by Brandon Mull

Hardcover, 512 pg.
Aladdi, 2013
Read: December 2 – 5, 2013

Wow — Mull concluded his Beyonder’s trilogy in a fantastic fashion. Given the target audience, I couldn’t believe how many deaths there were in this book. But, not in a gory or exploitative way. Just a huge body count. But, the core of this book remained the same: these two Beyonders, Rachel and Jason, risking everything for the sake of Lyrian. There’s sacrifice, honor, loyalty, and courage — all the necessary elements of a tale full of heroes — natives and Beyonders, warriors and children, those with many lives and those with only one to lose. Which is not to say it’s not fun — there’s a lot of fun to be had by the characters and the readers. Great way to go out.
4 Stars

FiddleheadFiddlehead

by Cherie Priest

Paperback, 368 pg.
Tom Doherty Associates, 2013
Read: November 12 – 14, 2013

Nice looking book — love the cover, the layout and the graphics are great. I miss the brown ink — what gives, Tor? Sure, the content is the important thing, it’s just nice when the package it’s wrapped in is nice to look at. Speaking of content — this (like the rest of this group) is a fitting — and thrilling — conclusion to the series. Lincoln (wheelchair-bound following the unsuccessful assassination attempt at Ford’s Theater) and President Grant working together near the end of the Civil War to protect a freeman scientist who built an early computer — the eponymous Fiddlehead. Fiddlehead is the best chance to end the War without making everything worse. The presidents, with the assistance of Pinkerton agent Maria Boyd and intelligence from — well, everywhere else this series has focused — in order to begin to deal with the Rotters. I think it’s possible that Boyd is my favorite character in the series — in the Top 3, anyway.

I just didn’t want this series to end, I understand it needed to, but man…just didn’t want that.
4 1/2 Stars

Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

Beautiful Chaos
Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So, this is still a really well-written series, with a rich cast of characters and a fully-realized setting that puts The Caster Chronicles ahead of several similar series. However, this installment — by and large — seems rather pointless. Its main task seems to be setting the stage for Book 4.

Yes, there’s some character development — but not enough, it’s like they’re afraid to go too far with some of the supporting characters (like Link and Ridley) at this point, they have to leave something for the next installment. Yes, we get some vital back story, but . . . well, that’s pretty much it. There’s a couple hundred pages of set up, a quick action scene and a conclusion that isn’t.

A few other notes:

  • It took Ethan and Lena far too long to decode the song lyrics. They’ve been doing this for about 2 years now, right? And they’re this slow? Hard to root for people when they’re acting far stupider than they are — especially this many of them at once.
  • For people who talk about loving and respecting each other as much as these people do — they don’t communicate. On those rare occasions when they do, actual progress is made. Amma and Ethan, in particular, should’ve conversed, not hidden things from each other.
  • For a series with such a strong sense of place, man, these authors show such contempt for the citizenry and culture of Gatlin. Isn’t it possible to talk about problems with the society without vilifying it?
  • I was unclear whether the devastation brought about by Lena’s choice (and Abraham Ravenwood & Co’s reaction to it) was limited to Gatlin, or if it extended beyond that. If it’s just Gatlin — where’s the press, the scientific community, the feds, looky-loos, etc. converging on the area to investigate it? If it’s a larger area affected, what are the explanations? Assuming they’re able to defeat Abraham in the next book, how does the world go back to normal?
  • So many things — Ethan’s taste issues, Link’s abilities, foremost amongst them — are introduced, and explored a little bit, and then dropped. Why?

I have confidence that Garcia and Stohl will pull this off (mostly) in the last 50 pages or so of Beautiful Redemption, and this will just fade into memory as a prolonged setup. But right now, it’s left a sour taste in my mouth.

Dream Dark by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

Dream Dark
Dream Dark by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is pretty much the textbook definition of “meh.” The primary purpose of this short story “of Gatlin’s first, and only, Linkubus” is to provide a bridge between Beautiful Darkness and Beautiful Chaos, which is does well enough.

But the thing is, there’s already a land-bridge between the two books — Chapter 1 of Beautiful Chaos. Dream Dark is totally unnecessary.

Add to that the fact that practically nothing happens. Nothing we need to know, anyhow. We get more details on the aftermath of Link being bitten by the half-Incubus, and how he deals with it early on — but we don’t learn anything we need to know. And it’s not even that particularly entertaining.

If this story’d been told from Link’s POV rather than Ethan’s, maybe that could’ve been enough to justify this. But as it is…meh.

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P.S. For the record, I’d have felt this way about the story even if I hadn’t bought the e-copy and then discovered that it was printed in the back of my paperback copy of Beautiful Chaos. Really.