High School is Hell: “Raven” #1 (Review)
Written by: Marv Wolfman
Art by: Alison Borges
Spoilers: This issue takes place after last week’s Detective Comics #940 and Teen Titans #24…
The Teen Titans are no more, at least for a month or two until a new reboot. Issue #24 saw each of them go their own way after the recent tragedy. Raven has moved to San Francisco to live with her aunt and family. Raven’s initial state of mind around the Teen Titans’ loss is quickly pushed aside for a sense of pending doom around her demon god father, Trigon, finding her. Raven expects this pending doom of her father and has run, hid, faced, and fought it across multiple storylines. This issue teases a new entity or demonic power that Raven will have to face. In addition to the unknown force, Raven also has to face life as a teenager.
Raven often has the greatest character development during these “fish out of water” situations. As the daughter of a demon god, she has plenty of power to confront typical super hero threats. But as the daughter of a demon god who has spent plenty of time in hellish dimensions, Raven is unprepared for “normal” life as a high school teenager. This juxtaposition of character and situation create opportunities for commentary on social norms, society expectations, and peer pressure. Raven faces social challenges of being an outcast and establishing friendships, while trying to maintain control over her powers. This series has the opportunity to explore a lot of these challenges and speak to readers in meaningful ways. Similar to DC’s previous run with Batgirl, there are ways to use this high school setting to connect with readers who can relate to social and society challenges.
This is not to say that the book is heavy handed or preachy. On the contrary, it balances social and family interactions with the pending sense of dread and an unknown demonic threat. Raven #1 balances character interaction and super hero action well. While there is more development around Raven’s character that should happen and more loss that she should process, the book takes time. Grief, loss, social anxiety, and friendship take time and should not be neatly wrapped up in a single issue. Raven #1 is nicely balanced thanks to the scripting of Marv Wolfman.
Marv Wolfman, along with George Perez created Raven back in 1980 and Wolfman has written her character on and off for the past 35 years. His comfort and love of the character shines through in the pacing and care that is given to literal and figurative demons in Raven’s life. Unfortunately, Wolfman’s experience creating other characters like Tim Drake and other Titans is not applied here. Given his history with these characters there is the potential for references and connections in future issues.
This is a first issue, and it is as accessible as a #1 should be. Readers also benefit from Raven’s increased visibility over the past few years through television cartoons and DC’s animated direct to video films. The combination of character awareness and character relevance makes Raven #1 a great jumping off point for fans of the character and readers looking to identify with the feeling of isolation in a crowded world.