Book Review: Teen Titans: Robin

“Teen Titans: Robin”
Writer: Kami Garcia
Artist: Gabriel Picolo with Rob Haynes
Color Artist: David Calderon
Letterer: Wes Abbott
Review by Steve J. Ray

Teen Titans: Robin is the fourth book in the hugely successful (and absolutely brilliant) Teen Titans series of YA graphic novels, written by Kami Garcia and illustrated by Gabriel Picolo.

Following on from the wonderful Beast Boy Loves Raven, this new volume mainly focuses on Damian Wayne and his big brother, Dick Grayson. Raven and Beast Boy fans worry not! They still shine brightly in this new story.

Teen Titans: Robin

As we already know from books 1-3, this is a universe slightly different from our own, so the characters’ histories and dynamics aren’t the same as the ones we’re used to, or may have seen before.

As always, Kami Garcia writes teens and young adults brilliantly. The new backgrounds and dynamics she creates for this group of heroes work well for new audiences, though still give a level of familiarity and comfort to existing fans of these timeless characters.

This Damian Wayne is still a cantankerous egomaniac, but we don’t have to wait years to see him mature and grow, as we had to in the comics. Dick Grayson is still the man who was born to be a hero, and the way we meet him in this book is brand new, but still vintage Grayson.

Kami clearly loves these characters and respects what their creators did when they brought them to life, and what legions of writers and artists have continued to do over the years. This is one of the many reasons I love her as a writer (the fact that she’s a lovely person as well is the icing on the cake).

Gabriel Picolo is a superstar. It’s so humbling to know that Teen Titans: Raven was his first professional work for DC and that he was a fan artist when his comics journey began. His eye for design, fashion, and the real world is sublime, and the way he draws people, their faces, and body language is stunning. His clothes, footwear, and architecture are all wonderful things to look at. Sometimes his t-shirt slogans make me laugh out loud.

Rob Haynes is credited as helping with the art, so kudos to him, too. David Calderon’s pastel colors work beautifully with Picolo and Haynes’ line art, adding subtle textures and finesse to the finished pages.

Wes Abbott is one of the best and most prolific letterers out there. His easy-to-follow, clear captions in this book are very different from what I’m used to seeing from him and, again, perfectly suited to Kami’s scripts and Gabriel and Rob’s art.

I had to go back and re-read the previous three books (which are now available as a handy box set), to catch up on where we’d left these wonderful characters, and even though he was already a great artist in book one, Gabriel’s art and style have grown, developed and matured visibly from book one, until now.

The way he’s made the two Robins’ superhero outfits from letterman jackets and hoodies is brilliant and makes these “real-world” super-teens fit in with Kami Garcia’s world-building work perfectly. Don’t expect any skin-tight LYCRA® on these pages! This writer/artist partnership is a match made in heaven.

The only minor quibble I have about his book, and its predecessors, is the fact that it does work better as part of the whole and not so well as a standalone volume. It does feel like we come into a story in the middle and have to learn about what’s happening with these characters and learn who they are, as they clearly already have history together.

Yes, things become more clear as the book progresses, but a simple “What came before” intro at the beginning of the book would make it a lot more accessible for new readers. Of course, if you don’t already own copies of Raven, Beast Boy, or Beast Boy Loves Raven, then you’ve been missing out, and reading Teen: Titans Robin will really make you want to… so, buy them!

Conclusion

This book is about love, relationships, growing up, and found-family, all of which are subjects that will resonate with teens and young adults everywhere. Please, though, don’t feel like you shouldn’t pick this up if you’re what’s known or viewed as a “grown-up”. The level of maturity in Teen Titans: Robin is incredibly refreshing.

This book doesn’t contain huge explosions, conflagration, gunfire, or high-octane action. No, what we get here is drama, tension, and real-world level thrills. We feel the villains getting closer, sense the fear in our heroes, revel in the support they’re shown by the adult characters in the book, and in the love and respect that they, sometimes begrudgingly, show each other.

It’s no secret that I adore Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne, but this wonderful graphic novel has made me fall in love with them, and their friends, all over again. Oh, and be sure to keep a lookout for book five, as it will introduce the next member of the team. This lady’s a star, and she’s going to set the Teen Titans’ world on fire.

Teen Titans: Robin comes out on Mar 7th, 2023. ISBN: 9781779512246 (The Barnes & Noble Exclusive Edition includes a bonus 8-page photo album and variant cover – ISBN: 9781779523563).

Images Courtesy of DC Entertainment. Review Copy Courtesy of Penguin Random House.


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