In Teen Titans: Beast Boy by Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo, the most likeable teenage boy in the world discovers he has unforeseen abilities and rocks supportive friendships. I liked it far more than I’d anticipated, and frankly, I’m ready to adopt Beast Boy now.
Teen Titans: Beast Boy
David Calderon (colorist), Gabriela Downie (letterer), Kami Garcia (writer), Rob Haynes (additional art), Gabriel Picolo (artist)
Sept. 1, 2020
Much like in Teen Titans: Raven, the art here is mostly in black and white and grays, with splashes of color for emphasis and composition. It’s a style that feels very fresh and suits the material. In their introductions to this book, Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo both discuss how much Picolo loves the character of Beast Boy, and that affection shows in the writing and the art.
Garfield Logan is seventeen years old and trying to get swole. He’s eating lots of protein and working out, but he still looks smaller and younger than he wants to. He starts to suspect the nutritional supplement his parents insist on may be hindering his growth and flushes the whole stash. That’s when he starts growing overnight, and a strange ability to transform begins to surface.
I wouldn’t normally think that premise would interest me, but it definitely did, because Gar’s personality is so believable and appealing. Gar’s parents, always distracted and worried about funding for their scientific research, are frustratingly realistic. They love their son, think about him a lot, but don’t engage with him very much. As the story opens, Gar seems fond of them but doesn’t confide in them.
That relationship with his parents may be why Gar is so heavily invested in his friends. The first thing Gar does when he leaves his house in the morning is help an elderly neighbor rescue an ornery cat from a tree, and the next thing he does join a pal at a fair to cheer on an eating contest. I was immediately all in. I was taking notes and wrote down, “o no i love him.”
The evolution of Gar’s powers, and the reveal that Slade is in town to recruit him to H.I.V.E., follow basically the same formula that they did for Raven in the first book of this series, Teen Titans: Raven. That’s not particularly interesting, though I understand that it is necessary worldbuilding. In Raven and in Beast Boy, it reads like a junior edition of the MCU, with a mysterious eyepatched authority figure showing up at the end to invite the protagonist to join his team.
As Ardo Omer notes in this review of Raven, however, regardless of how interesting the reveal of superpowers can be, a big part of what makes the book successful is the attention to the teenage hero’s interpersonal relationships. While Raven is more about found family, I found the focus in Beast Boy to be on his friendships and his role in a community. Gar’s two best friends are three-dimensional characters with their own lives, and the three of them together form a mutually supportive triangle. It’s an inspirational model of a functional friends group for early teen readers.
Since the plot in Beast Boy was so much like the one in Raven, I am excited to read the next installment in the series, Teen Titans: Beast Boy Loves Raven, since when they come together it will certainly break up the formula presented thus far. I was also glad that Gar’s friends each got their own moments to shine. They were enjoyable characters in their own right, and like Raven’s found family from the first book, I hope they show up again. Their positive treatment indicates that Garcia and Picolo are going to handle an ensemble cast well, as the Teen Titans continue to assemble.
Teen Titans: Beast Boy shows me that Garfield Logan will be a great member of the team: a kindhearted kid with good instincts about people, who values his friends.