Best Shots Review: RAVEN #1 'A Long Overdue Spotlight'

"Raven #1" preview
Credit: Alisson Borges (DC Comics)
Credit: Alisson Borges (DC Comics)

Raven #1
Written by Marv Wolfman
Art by Alisson Borges and Blond
Lettering by A Larger World
Published by DC Comics
Review by Oscar Maltby
'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

Marv Wolfman and Alisson Borges look back to before Teen Titans: Rebirth #1 with Raven #1, the first part of a six-issue miniseries focused on her break away from the Titans to live with her estranged aunt's painfully normal family. Wolfman's script encapsulates all the trials and tribulations of high school, balancing the otherworldy with the social anxieties of fitting in to great effect. While Alisson Borges' denizens of hell are appropriately creepy and her style is lively, the sheer amount of students she packs into every panel leaves some of her characters looking a little rough.

Wolfman slips easily back into the character he created, interlacing Raven's stoic honesty with a subtle wit that manages to elicit more than a few chuckles. Raven is the posterchild for any sullen teenager who thinks they're the only one with real problems, eternally plagued by her demonic father Trigon. “How do I explain an interdimensional doom demon to muggles?” she asks of herself; It's a testament to Wolfman's script that he manages to slip in a Harry Potter reference without also bringing to mind Steve Buscemi in a backwards baseball cap.

 

Credit: Alisson Borges (DC Comics)

Wolfman plays to his strengths of horror and dread, ensuring there's a supernatural undercurrent to the entire issue that threatens every character from the sidelines. Away from all things demonic, Raven's aunt Alice is resassuringly average, with a loving family and a somewhat more orthodox outlook to spirituality than Raven is comfortable with. It's the classic “fish out of water” scenario, which Wolfman milks even more when it comes to school.

Credit: Alisson Borges (DC Comics)

Wolfman keeps the plot moving in healthy strides, unwilling to reveal the exact nature of the evil plaguing this normal San Francisco high school but still showing enough demonic action to propel the next five issues into the reader's pull-list. The corridors of Madison High School buzz with activity, thanks to Wolfman's little abstracted snippets of dialogue. “... movie...” mutters a spiky-haired boy, while a girl murmurs “... she makes me feel... weird...” It's the furthest thing from natural dialogue, but it offers a blunt and immediately relatable flashback to the tumultuous teenage mind.

Credit: Alisson Borges (DC Comics)

Alisson Borges' strong manga influence really suits the subject matter for Raven's hellish nightmares. Borges' legless and faceless specters are harsh mockeries of the human form, bringing to mind books like Bleach and Attack on Titan in creating creatures that are equal parts bizarre and disturbing. However, Borges' malformed human faces are less welcome in the classroom. The students that populate her busy panels have angular faces; some expressive but most seeming rushed and off-model. Despite this weakness, Borges and Wolfman save the gruesome best for last, as we see the graphic fate of souls doomed to fun-fair purgatory at The White Carnival of the arc's namesake. Colorist Blond's use of stark white and icy blue here serve as a harsh exaggeration of the issue's moody blue palette, searing eyes with a blinding brightness that is somehow more terrifying than the dark.

Marv Wolfman and Alisson Borges cast a long overdue spotlight on the daughter of Trigon with Raven #1, a solid first issue which serves as a great introductory point for the character as well as expanding a recent lost period of Teen Titans history. Although Borges' horrific artwork shines, busier sequences in Madison High School suffer for their detail. Most of all, Raven #1 offers Marv Wolfman the opportunity to show us all that he's still got it.

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