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garfield logan with a friendly python Image: DC

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Teen Titans: Beast Boy is best when it focuses on the beast, not the boy

The Titan is a scrappy gem when he’s the sole hero of the story 

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In a new young adult graphic novel series from DC Comics, the Teen Titans get an update. And after the Raven book that debuted last year, it’s time for the scrappy shapeshifting hero Beast Boy to shine!

Out Sept. 1, Beast Boy starts before the young hero has manifested any superpowers. He’s a high school senior, dealing with his own insecurities, and slowly manifesting repressed powers. But will he use his animal-like shapeshifting powers for good or to climb the social ladder at his school?

Who is making Teen Titans: Beast Boy?

Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo, who partnered up for the previous installment of the series, reunite for Beast Boy. If you recognize their names, it’s because Garcia co-penned a series of YA paranormal romance novels back in the early 2010s (the Beautiful Creatures series) and before Picolo worked for DC, he had a strong online presence on Instagram and DeviantArt (with a fair amount of Teen Titans fan art — you too can make your dreams happen).

What is Teen Titans: Beast Boy about?

Garfield Logan tackles his last few months of senior year, super duper bummed that he hasn’t ever had a growth spurt. When he stops taking some vitamin supplements, however, he starts exhibiting animal-like powers — which skyrockets him to popularity but also catches the eyes of some unsavory characters…

Why is Teen Titans: Beast Boy happening now?

Technically, this is the second book in a series, updating the Teen Titans characters’ backstories and giving them more modern origin stories. The first book, an origin story about everyone’s favorite Goth girl with demonic powers, Raven, came out last year. Beast Boy turns the spotlight over to the shapeshifting hero, setting everything in motion to kick off some Teen Titans crossovers.

gar about to take a bite of a big ghost pepper Image: DC

Is there any required reading?

Nope! While the series does have a previous installment, it focuses on Raven. Beast Boy’s story is pretty standalone, without many mentions or nods to Raven’s (though familiarity with some DC staples like H.I.V.E. and Slade Wilson may enrich the experience). The upcoming book in the series, Beast Boy Loves Raven, will bring the two characters together.

Is Teen Titans: Beast Boy good?

Mostly! Everything that focuses on Garfield Logan is good. Beast Boy is a funny hero with a thirst to prove himself and Garcia writes him with a distinct voice, never shying away from his insecurities. He strives for popularity in his last semester in high school, something he’s never achieved thanks to his short and shrimpy stature. Picolo’s depiction of the hero seals the deal.

When the story is just about Beast Boy coming to terms with his powers — figuring out whether to use them for his own personal self interest — and overcoming his insecurities, it’s fun, with occasional heartfelt moments. He sneaks into a university’s lab to take a picture of a python, which follows him home! He takes a huge bite of a ghost pepper, but his animal tastebuds allow him to eat it! All good Beast Boy moments, reminding us that this is a hero with humor and heart.

The problem is that a lot of the emotional crux of Beast Boy is built upon the relationships Gar has with two of his close friends and those relationships feel very shallow and strained. It’s easier with his buddy Daniel, an athlete with a heart of gold, but his friend Stella — whose quest to stop animal testing and save the dogs at the animal shelter drives much of the plot — is just a grating character, who thinks she’s better than the other girls at school because she’s a gamer.

Her entire character feels like it came out of 2012 and not 2020. It would be one thing if her judgement was interrogated or if the other female characters were given any more depth besides “hot popular girls,” but as it stands, everything about Stella feels very shallow, which detracts from the emotional core of the story. Gar eventually stops focusing on popularity to help her with the dogs, but Stella rarely shows any sympathy to Garfield’s insecurities, basically telling him to get over it. It feels like a stretch that he’d have a moral reckoning because of her.

One panel that popped

gar exhibiting the powers of a mountain lion while playing dodgeball in gym class Image: DC

A good showcase of Beast Boy’s powers — and his goofiness.

Teen Titans: Beast Boy is out Sept. 1 and available to purchase on Comixology.