DC Comics' line of young adult graphic hovels have been a consistent bright spot for the publisher, and one of the earliest (and most successful) entries was Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo's Teen Titans: Raven. That title brought a fresh and reliable vibe to a character often lacking both traits in DC's canonical series, and now the duo returns alongside artist Rob Haynes, colorist David Calderon, and letterer Gabriela Downie for the story's next entry: Teen Titans: Beast Boy. Thankfully, I can say the sequel not only meets the high bar established in Raven, but soars above it. Anyone lacking an appreciation for Beast Boy will walk away from this comic with a whole new perspective on one of DC's most energizing characters.
Many readers already know Gar Logan as the comic relief of the Teen Titans, and while Garcia's take on the character retains his sense of humor, he's good for much more than a quip or two. Gar's reliance on humor exists as a defense mechanism and an avenue for acceptance, despite having friends who already accept him wholeheartedly. Those aren't entirely new ideas, but it's the execution that impresses here—providing the character new depth and relatable traits that transform him into a three-dimensional character.
Picolo's pencils and Calderon's colors are equally important parts of the overall equation, presenting a modern take on Gar that makes you feel as though you already know him. His carefree attitude masks a young man struggling to fit in and understand himself, and why he doesn't quite feel like he's reaching his potential. It's beyond impressive how much of that storytelling comes through in Gar's vivid expressions and mannerisms, along with those of his parents and friends, Stella and Tank.
Speaking of Gar's friends, Gar's besties Stella and Tank earn MVP titles for a number of reasons. As displayed in the pages of Raven, Garcia has a knack for developing authentic friendships that feel as if they were mined from your own experiences and memories. Stella and Tank are both delightfully authentic and bring out some of Gar's most honest moments.
This is especially true of Gar and Stella's friendship, a relationship that is so honest and genuine it's hard to picture Gar functioning as a person without her present. Tank plays an important part in this dynamic as well, breaking down the standard jock tropes and providing some lovely moments that only further that authentic feelings of friendship, like when he brings extra food from his as his mother worries that not everyone is eating. This resonates with memories of digging into your friend's refrigerator after a few visits or bringing along an extra soda for your bud when picking him up. It's all of these little touches that make these friendship feel organic and real.
All of this creates a powerful comic before even introducing Gar's powers, and readers can sense the creative team's enthusiasm for the character on every page. Picolo has said Beast Boy is a personal favorite of his, and it shows, as this is one of the most inventive and thorough depictions of Gar's abilities ever to exist in comics. Witnessing how his biology and chemistry adapt to each new situation is a wonderful way to display his power set without having to change any external features, though when the time comes for that—well, Picolo, Haynes, and Calderon don't disappoint there either, and it's absolutely worth the wait.
Perhaps the best part of the comic's climactic battle is how Gar's friends react in its aftermath, and the book concludes with some truly poignant pages that remind you of what true friendship looks like. Teen Titans: Beast Boy is never preachy, but presents compelling takes on popularity, expectations, family, and friendship, all wrapped up in a super-powered bow. Throw in the ever-evolving antagonist of Slade and an amazing monkey-turned-sidekick named Kong, and you've got yourself a winning comic book for all ages.
DC Comics has been hitting it out of the park with their young adult publications, but there is something exceptional about the Teen Titans series, and Beast Boy meets every expectation. When starting the graphic novel, I wasn't Gar Logan's biggest fan, but I now possess a whole new appreciation for the character. If you give Teen Titans: Beast Boy a chance like me, I suspect you'll fall in love, too.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Written by Kami Garcia
Art by Gabriel Picolo with Rob Haynes0comments
Colored by David Calderon
Letters by Gabriela Downie