TITLE: Teen Titans: Beast Boy
AUTHOR: Kami Garcia
ARTISTS: Gabriel Picolo w/Rob Haynes, David Calderon (Colorist), Gabriela Downie (Letterer)
PUBLISHER: DC Graphic Novels For Young Adults
RELEASED: September 1, 2020
By Rob Siebert
Teen Titans: Beast Boy brushes up against something I desperately wish it had explored further, as it’s something we rarely if ever see examined in superhero comics: Male body image issues.
That’s certainly not to say men have it worse than women in that department. Particularly as far as depictions in superhero books go. But it would have been a great route to take with a changeling superhero, and one that many a male reader could have identified with.
While not great, Beast Boy still turns out to be pretty good. Nothing Earth-shaking as far as YA books are concerned. But if you’re a Teen Titans fan, and especially if you enjoyed Teen Titans: Raven by this same team, it’s worth your time.
At it’s core, Beast Boy is about a kid who wants to fit in and be accepted. You’d be hard pressed to find a theme that’ll resonate with high schoolers more than that. It why our main character Gar Logan wants to change his image, change his body, etc. And of course, there’s a girl he wants to impress. Those two motivations cast a pretty wide net, making Gar a particularly sympathetic lead. Even when he starts developing animal shape-shifting powers.
Still, the book is able to find a nice balance between Gar’s teen angst, and portraying him as the light-hearted jokey character people know from the comics and cartoon show. This is true in terms of both Garcia’s writing and Picolo’s pencils, which more than once feel very reminiscent of how Beast Boy was drawn on the cartoon (see above). That comedy/drama balance can be very tough to strike, and I give the book a lot of credit for pulling it off.
Strangely, there’s a subplot in Beast Boy about a character with a learning disability that amounts to absolutely nothing. I’m all for representation and talking about these kinds of things. But shouldn’t it amount to something a little more than someone saying they have dyslexia?
Beast Boy is a sequel/spin-off to last year’s Teen Titans: Raven. As such, comparisons between the two are inevitable. Upon flipping through Raven, what immediately jumps out at me is the difference in the colors. David Calderon, our colorist for both books, used a largely muted palette of violets on Raven. There are similar muted tones in Beast Boy, but Calderon is also more inclined to make the colors pop more often. Gar’s skin tone, along with the green accent in his hair, are the most consistent example. There’s also a supporting character with really bright blue hair, making her particularly distinct.
The book takes a risk when Gar’s animagus powers start manifesting: His human body starts to mimic the animal he’s either channeling or about to change into. We see it with a mountain lion (right) and to a lesser extent with a bear. Whether it works or not is subjective. But I’m happy they didn’t overplay their hand with this trick. It could have ventured into silly territory very quickly.
For a long time now, I’ve argued that DC’s main Teen Titans series has lacked a sufficient amount of that “teen” element that’s supposed to distinguish it from books like Justice League. What these books by Garcia and Picolo do better than anything is put that “teen” back in Teen Titans. It’s a crucial, yet somehow often overlooked ingredient in their recipe for success.
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