Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Raven #1 Review and **SPOILERS**

You’re Moving With Your Auntie and Uncle in the Bay Area

Written By: Marv Wolfman
Art By: Alisson Borges, Blond
Lettered By: A Larger World
Cover Price: $2.99
On Sale Date: September 21, 2016


For as long as I’ve read various iterations of the Teen Titans, the one character I never cottoned to completely is Raven. I don’t hate her, but she always spends so much time away from the team, sulking in her room or actively telling people to bug off, that it’s hard to understand what makes her tick. Like yeah, I understand, she’s the daughter of a hell borne abomination dedicated to pure evil and destruction—but what’s her favorite flavor of ice cream? What kind of books does she read, besides the Necronomicon? Does she listen to Metal? There’s no better scribe to explain all of that to me than the character’s co-creator Marv Wolfman, in a six-issue miniseries titled Raven. And you can read all about the first issue of that miniseries, right here!

Explain It!

Now that Tim Drake is dead-esque and the Teen Titans, as we know them, have disbanded, Raven’s decided it’s time to reconnect with her family—and not that crazy family from Azarath always trying to bring about the end of the world, but her human family: Aunt Alice, Uncle Jack, and her cousins Billy and Mary-Beth. They live in a suburban Christian home, and have agreed to house Raven—who they call Rachel—while she finds herself. What’s really awesome is that Raven is dressed as a fairly normal (although “sophisticated”) teenager, a snazzy tight dress and some ripped stockings…but she has this little hoodie shrug as part of the ensemble. It’s like casual day at the witchcraft circle. I wonder if there’s a more portable traveling sweeper the size of a whisk broom to go with it. Everyone introduces themselves to Raven and they all sit down for a nice family dinner, which of course makes Raven feel super awkward. During the meal, Aunt Alice talks about her sister—Raven’s mom—Angela, and it’s pretty interesting. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anyone attempt to humanize Raven’s mom, I always took it for granted that she was always some spaced-out super mystic, it didn’t occur to me that, sure, she was a regular human being at one point too.

Raven has a nightmare about the usual stuff: impending doom, humiliations, her all-powerful demonic father Trigon, but she’s woken by…well, the whole family, for some stupid reason. Aunt Alice says she heard Raven screaming and they all came to check on her, which Raven finds rather nice despite the fact that they just barged into a teenage girl’s room. I have known parents to mysteriously disappear after such a transgression. The next day, Raven heads over to…Madison High School? Raven’s of high school age? I didn’t know that, I thought she was like eighteen or nineteen or something…though no matter how old she is, I’m guessing an extended period rolling around with the old Teen Titans crew didn’t leave her a lot of time to get her Graduate Equivalency Diploma, so I’ll go with it. Raven feels very self-conscious at the crowded high school, and like everyone is staring at her. So she is a normal teenager after all! Even though I did make an inward groan at this rather trite scenario when I first encountered it, I admit that I warmed up to the idea. I mean, it’s sort of like Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, if Sabrina was the manifest key to prophetic disaster. Which, in the current Afterlife With Archie version, she is. But that’s another comic book entirely.

While walking the hallways, Raven’s magic sense starts tingling, and she pukes in front of everyone. So we know who is going to be Puke Girl until graduation. She attends class, and through captions explains that Power Girl (the Teen Titans one) created an electronic backstory for her, and Beast Boy taught her how to converse with people. She’s able to use that skill when four kids run up and introduce themselves—probably future members of Team Raven, I’m guessing. They actually seem more like analogues of the Scooby-Doo gang, which is more appropriate. When her new pals show her a poster for pop music superstar Night Mistress, Raven has another attack of the willies and spies someone on the staircase scanning her…uh, magically. Just then, new friend Archer goes instantaneously blind, forcing Raven to use her healing powers on him. She’s able to blow it off as being totally normal, which I liked because I think people would rather believe in something ludicrous, before admitting to the supernatural.
Raven spies the girl that scanned her yesterday, and takes off after her, all the while thinking through caption boxes about how rash and selfish she is. For while she hauls after this girl, some homeless dudes are being wrapped in what look like the Crimon Bands of Cyttorak and Archer is at the hospital hulking out. Raven eventually catches up to her targer, but she simply whaps Raven away and skedaddles. That evening, the crew is at the carnival, including the girl that magic scanned Raven earlier in the day. She splits off from the others, promising to take a “Ugo” taxi (you can do better than that, folks), but instead walks into the warehouse district, I guess? She calls for her Ugo cab, then steps into a storage locker and is taken away in a ball of light, which is bad news because they do still charge a service fee if you leave them hanging for more than three minutes. Within this light, the mysterious girl looks like she’s living through her worst nightmares, and somewhere in the same town Raven is in bed, being menaced or aided by some kind of spirit bird! Probably a Raven! Oh, I just got that!

I have to admit, when I first saw this was going to take place in a high school, I wondered if this was going to be more That’s So Raven and less quoth the raven, Nevermore. But I actually dug it, Raven is certainly a fish out of water which leads to some funny and thought-provoking situations. I thought the accruement of her new friends was a bit convenient, but I suppose we’re only getting six issues here so there isn’t a lot of time to waste. The art is pretty great, it has a rounder, more Manga-influenced style than “typical” comic book fare, but still very meticulous and Western in its approach to composition and layout. Looks pretty good for the rest of this miniseries, though I was wrong once before. And that’s why the world’s bee population is dwindling at a rapid pace.

Bits and Pieces:

Raven is starting a new life in San Francisco with the aid of some estranged family members. I mean strange family members. I mean Raven is strange. It's a fairly typical "fish out of water" story, with the wrinkle being that the protagonist is prone to painful attacks that might bring about the end of the world. It's called her period! Ha! Hey, what are you doing? Put that cheese grater down!


1 comment:

  1. Pleasantly surprised by the time I got to page 5 of this book! Looking forward to the mysteries being revealed as the art sucks me in.