Review by Frank Plowright
Beast Boy Loves Raven is the first sequel published to DC’s earlier young adult graphic novels, continuing and merging the stories Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo began in Raven and Beast Boy. Both title characters left their homes to end their first outings, and the opening chapter finds them both in Tennesse. Raven Roth is an amnesiac 12th grade student who somehow tunes into the thoughts of others, and she’s made a very disturbing discovery about her parentage. Garfield Logan’s parents didn’t bother telling him he’d contracted a rare disease as an infant, nor that a side effect of their experimental treatment has been controlled by drugs ever since. When he stopped taking them he discovered he could channel the traits of animals, or in very stsressful moments transform into green versions, but retaining his human intelligence. Also of relevance is both being contacted by Slade Wilson, who seems to have sinister intentions, Raven being followed by her half-sister, and Gar accompanied by the monkey he rescued from a testing centre.
Picolo has been a first rate artistic partner for Garcia on both previous books, and their collaboration is even more impressive here. Garcia writes a few wordless sequences, and Picolo has become even better at defining emotions through expressions and posture. The sample art speaks volumes. The backgrounds could be a little more active at times, but this is a talented artist showcasing some great storytelling.
Although Gar and Raven keep it from the other, they’re both in Nashville to meet Wilson, and they gradually come to know each other as they wait for him to turn up. As with Garcia’s previous outings, this may feature alternatives known from the Teen Titans, but over the first half of Beast Boy Loves Raven the focus is resolutely on the people, not the super powers.
The super powers become more relevant in the second half, during which Gar and Raven are supplanted for a long sequence by two other characters. One we’ve seen before, and the other is perhaps oversold when first introduced, as a young adult audience is rapidly going to pick up who they are. As interesting as that is, they eventually steal too much time from the title characters, although one can see where Garcia is taking her story. It’s further disappointing that when Gar and Raven find themselves in one hell of a predicament, it requires more than the title characters are capable of to extricate themselves from it.
This is in the tradition of Maximum Ride or Pittacus Lore’s young adult novels about teens discovering super powers along with agencies wanting to exploit them, but here also with an extra dose of romance thrown in, and despite the few plot misgivings it ought to satisfy the young adult readers. It wasn’t clear when Raven ended that a larger story had begun, but when Beast Boy Loves Raven finishes with some plot threads dangling, we know there’s more to come.