When “Flashpoint” rebooted the DC Universe, the team that easily changed the most was the Titans. DC’s new “Rebirth” initiative is going a long way towards restoring both the Teen Titans and New Titans groups of characters, and Marv Wolfman and Alisson Borges’s “Raven” #1 is definitely part of that revamp. After several years of a slightly problematic Raven in the DC Universe, the character that fans love seems to be on her way back.
The Good Old Goth Days
Joining the roster of the New Teen Titans in 1980, Raven was a mysterious empath who warned the Titans of the demon Trigon and his attempt to destroy the world. Joining the Titans in order to stop the demon king, her nature as Trigon’s illegitimate daughter attempting to stop the evil within her soul quickly struck a nerve among readers. Over the years, that attraction grew as Raven continued to win with her internal struggle, even as she made her own family with characters like Starfire, Jericho, Cyborg, Nightwing, and Beast Boy.
While writers over the years seemed unable to resist turning Raven into pure evil — the poor character was possessed by Trigon and has been turned into a villain on multiple occasions — it’s worth noting that it never stuck for too long. Readers, it seems, hate the idea of an evil Raven, thus, in one form or another, Raven always reverts to good. It’s this version of the character that the animated Titans cartoons (both “Teen Titans” and “Teen Titans Go!”) drew on heavily to create their own, telekinetic, gother-than-you Raven. This Raven was more moping than truly depressed, and her downbeat, deadpan lines were used for humor as much as pathos. Even when the “New Teen Titans” comic was at its peak, it’s easy to assume that it’s this animated version of Raven that is known by more people than any other.
If At First You Don’t Succeed…
With that in mind, the New 52 revamp of Raven felt slightly out of place. Not just because of her new, unrecognizable costume — looking very birdlike with talons, a cowl that covers most of her head and face, and a wing-like cape — but because this was a Raven who actively served Trigon at times. This Raven was regularly savage and an uneasy ally at best; one never got the impression that she cared much for anyone, or that she was even capable of forming bonds with those around her.
With the dissolution of her team of Teen Titans, though, it’s clearly a shift back to basics for the character; the end result is a version that exists somewhere between the cartoon and the classic comics. Here, Raven moves in with her aunt’s family and enrolls in high school. Wolfman gives the character a dry, slightly befuddled look at the world. It’s a Raven who is somewhat unfamiliar with having friends and fun, even as she’s starting to take to those new emotional components of her life. Lines about her father being evil are actively embraced by her new classmates, and for the first time in a while readers are getting the impression that this is a character you like actively like. She also looks more youthful, and with that, more approachable. This is no longer the blisteringly evil frenemy that existed for so long in the New 52’s “Teen Titans.”
At the same time, Wolfman and Borges haven’t forgotten what came before. Raven’s evil brothers make appearances in Raven’s dreams, for example, so for better or for worse they’re part of the picture. And while it’s not truly destructive, the darker side of Raven does make an appearance when she uses her powers to distract others from her plight by making them see their greatest fears, which is hardly a nice thing to do. There’s even a scene where her birdlike form actively separates from the rest of her body and flies out the window. Could this be not just metaphorical but a real attempt to get rid of the parts of the current Raven that never clicked with readers? Let’s hope so.
With the bad costume seemingly on the way out, a personality that can allow for friends and family, and less dangerous attacks on innocent bystanders, this feels much more like the Raven that fans want. There are admittedly several more issues to come, but this first step is an important one. Most fans of Ravens will be more than happy enough to pick up the issue to see the rebirth of a character who most definitely deserves another shot.