Teen Titans: Robin was uncharted territory for me and yet oddly familiar at the same time. As a teen librarian, I was familiar with Kami Garcia’s novels, but I had never read any graphic novels she had written. I was likewise well versed in the Teen Titans characters, but this was unlike any Teen Titans comic I had read before. I didn’t recognize the name of artist Gabriel Picolo, but I recognized his art from various social media posts showing more slice-of-life Anime inspired takes on the Teen Titans characters.
This helped ease me into Teen Titans: Robin, which is the fourth volume of Garcia and Picolo’s series of young adult graphic novels. I hadn’t read the original trilogy of Raven and Beast Boy books, but that didn’t prove to be a major obstacle. This volume is surprisingly accessible to those who, like me, were lured in by the Robin name without any thought of this being part of a larger story.
The graphic novel opens in the thick of the action, with Rachel Roth, Garfield Logan, Damian Wayne and Maxine Navarro on the run. They escaped from HIVE and the man called Slade Wilson who had lured them in to become test subjects due to their amazing powers. At the same time Slade is hunting them they are also being hunted by Dick Grayson, whom Damian recognizes as the adopted son of his biological father.
As one might expect given the title, the focus of this book is on Damian and Dick and the difficulties they face in trying to start a supportive sibling relationship. Most of the difficulties are on Damian’s side, as he views Dick as the perfect son that his father chose to adopt, whereas he was literally left on Batman’s doorstep for him to deal with unexpectedly. Dick, for his part, has trouble trying to understand where Damian is coming from and why he has a hard time accepting help and honest emotion after being raised by a group of assassins. However, the story also continues the development of Raven and Garfield’s romance from the earlier books in the series, and sets up a romance between Damien and Maxine as well.
Garcia has a terrific grasp of the teen psyche and has done a marvelous job of developing the classic Titans characters from the comics into a form that grasps their essential personalities while conforming to classic young adult literature tropes. Her characterizations are well-matched by Picolo’s art, which grounds an otherwise fantastic narrative as the teens train their powers and abilities, building up to a thrilling chase scene that closes out the novel. The final effect is reminiscent of a children’s adventure movie, like The Goonies or The Monster Squad.
Teen Titans: Robin is rated 13+ by the publisher and I consider that to be a fair rating. There’s no sexual content beyond kissing and no violence beyond martial arts sparring. There are a few intense moments where Raven tries to use her powers to see through the eyes of her demonic father, Trigon, but nothing inappropriate to the intended teen audience.
Teen Titans: Robin (Teen Titans, bk 4)
By Kami Garcia
Art by Gabriel Picolo
Publisher Age Rating: 13+
Series ISBNs and Order
NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)
Creator Representation: Brazilian
Character Representation: African-American