During the ‘00s, I would watch the animated tv series Teen Titans and find solace as a nerdy teen of color who felt out of place. I would especially find comfort in the dark, snarky superhero Raven due to our similarity with shitty parents and the struggle to connect with others. At the same time, I also found a small kinship with Beast Boy due to his geekiness and desire to be taken seriously. As I watched Raven and Beast Boy’s interactions, I began to ship (i.e. romantically pair them) together because of their shared status as misfits and how the two gradually learned to understand each other better.
Teen Titans: Beast Boy Loves Raven
Kami Garcia (writer). Gabriel Picolo (artist) with Rob Haynes, David Calderon (colorist), and Gabriela Downie (letterer)
September 28, 2021
Although Raven and Beast Boy have become romantically involved in other comics (esp. late in the 2003 Teen Titans run), the two never actually get to do any normal teenage dating stuff due to world-saving matters. Now, writer Kami Garcia and artist Gabriel Picolo rectify this in their new graphic novel Beast Boy Loves Raven. The graphic novel is the third book in the duo’s Teen Titans graphic novel series, which also includes Teen Titans: Raven and Teen Titans: Beast Boy.
The graphic novel begins with Raven (aka Rachel Roth) and Beast Boy (aka Garfield Logan) arriving in Nashville, Tennessee. Both of them are in town to have individual meet-ups with Slade, a mysterious man who has told each of them he could help with their respective powers. However, Slade soon tells each of them that he won’t meet them for a few days. When Raven and Beast Boy meet each other by chance, Beast Boy instantly falls for Raven. The two gradually get to know each other but don’t tell each other about their powers. Once the two start developing feelings for each other and discover there is more to Slade than they thought, the two must overcome their insecurities and work together.
One of the things that I appreciated about this book was how it wasn’t about one of them learning to love the other. Initially, the book’s title had me worried that the book would make Raven a damsel who needed help from Beast Boy to learn how to love again after experiencing her first heartbreak in her solo graphic novel. This book refutes this during a scene where Beast Boy stops a creep from hitting on Raven and Raven tersely tells Beast Boy she can handle herself. At that moment, Raven sensed the creep’s intentions through her empath powers, so she already knew she was in danger. The book develops both Raven and Beast Boy’s characters individually. They are not just love interests for each other, but also teens who gradually learn to embrace their powers.
One of the most fun aspects of this book was how Raven and Beast Boy are allowed to be teenagers doing regular stuff rather than superheroes saving the day. The Titans have not yet formed as a superhero group and the two of them are fresh out of high school. A notable moment is when the two of them go get brunch, and Beast Boy asks for a “vegetarian meal” to share with Raven. The two get a plate of burger toppings on toothpicks, including cheese, tomatoes, pickles, and dipping sauce. This is funny because there are no decent vegetarian options and it refers back to when the two first met and Beast Boy purposely switched their orders as an excuse to talk to Raven.
On a more emotionally vulnerable note, there are more than a few touching scenes that show Raven and Beast Boy attempting to hide their powers from each other before learning to accept them in order to help each other. One page shows Beast Boy waking Raven from a Trigon-related nightmare, which is later juxtaposed with Raven watching over a feverish Beast Boy. A tender moment near the end that was particularly enjoyable as a fan of the Teen Titans animated series is where Raven calls her powers “creepy” and Beast Boy calls them “amazing”, which improves a memorable, but flawed scene from the Teen Titans episode “Spellbound”.
Of course, Beast Boy and Raven don’t have all the fun and drama. Throughout the book, Raven is secretly being followed by her foster-sister Max, who has the power to see and communicate with dead spirits and channel their power. Later, Damien Wayne also makes an appearance because he is tracking Slade. Both Damien and Max end up working together and it is amusing to read, especially since Max’s abilities are showcased more than when she was first introduced in Teen Titans Raven.
Enhancing the characters and their arcs are Gabriel Picolo’s art, colors by David Calderon, and letters by Gabriela Downie. Picolo’s casual Teen Titans character designs were already great for Raven and Beast Boy because they had outfits that coordinated with their personality as well as their powers. In this book, this is extended to Damien Wayne, who sports a red, yellow and black jacket and pants that references his original outfit while being stylish and practical for his arsenal of gadgets, enhanced reflexes, and hand-to-hand combat skills.
On top of the character’s individual design, their powers are also shown to stunning effect due to Calderon’s use of ink and watercolor. The watercolor especially enhances certain action scenes by giving a particular character a colored outline when they use their powers. Meanwhile, Downie’s lettering is a major enhancement because she uses color-coordinated text for the Teen Titans’ internal dialogue as well as bold text and italics to emphasize emotions through text.
Although it is unconfirmed that Raven, Beast Boy, and Damien Wayne will eventually become a team, this book teases that possibly by showing how their skill sets are an asset to each other. In addition, the book also implies that their stories may continue in future books. Not only do we see Slade stalking Starfire, but the overarching subplot of Slade and his ex-wife Adeline Kane kidnapping and experimenting on superpowered teenagers is never fully resolved.
Beast Boy Loves Raven is an excellent continuation to the Teen Titans graphic novel series. As characters, Raven and Beast Boy echo their ‘00s animated counterparts by becoming the best version of themselves as teenagers and superheroes.