By Kelly Gaines
*Obligatory spoiler warning, which I apologize for not including more often*
Raven: Daughter of Darkness #2 is an in-depth look at a half demon’s crash course in empathy. Raven, current alias Rachel, is splitting her time between typical high school and telepathic superhero business. We left off with Raven coming face to face with a superhuman creature. The girl, who Raven calls Azure, is able to conjure horrifying illusions straight out of her enemy's nightmares; a power that currently leaves Raven in a tight spot. Raven is unable to tell if she’s the hunter or hunted but remains as determined as ever to help Azure- if helping her is possible at all.
This issue does a lot of good for developing Raven as a character. Even after being attacked by Azure, Raven reminds herself not to be judgemental or cruel and to look for the common ground between herself and the mystery superhuman. I’ve gotten used to seeing Raven portrayed as standoffish, harsh, and cynical; but the Raven of this arc is an inquisitive outsider. In spite of her limited understanding of her current situation, Raven keeps her focus on connecting. She strives for compassion, rather than working to build up walls between herself and potential threats. That isn’t to say that Raven has turned a blind eye to danger. In issue 2, we see a moment where Raven’s aunt pulls her aside to tell her something important. Raven’s impulse is to guess that this is the moment where she finds out Aunt Alice has an evil hidden agenda. Instead, Alice nervously asks Raven if she would attend Christmas Eve Mass with her family. The moment bears a lot of weight. As the daughter of otherworldly evil, Raven has no ties to Christianity- or any other Earth religion for that matter. Still, Raven can see how important her attendance at mass is to her aunt, and agrees to go. For anyone with very religious relatives, you’ve probably experienced similar moments- where the invitation of inclusion is less about converting you, and more about wanting you there for support. Once again, Raven shows a desire for compassion and agrees to Alice’s invitation as a gesture of appreciation.
The issue takes us through another example of Raven’s empathy when her new friend Teri is informed that her grandmother will soon die. The loss will make Teri an orphan, and leave her without a place to live. Raven seems to feel genuinely sorry for Teri but sees the limitation of her own superhuman abilities when she realizes she cannot heal Teri’s grandmother. Furthermore, though Raven can control the emotions of others, she chooses not to interfere with Teri’s grief. This example of restraint builds Raven up to be a potential leader. With the values she has exercised so far in this arc, Raven could very well lead a team of her own in future titles. I’m not certain what sort of spooky, demonic, superhero team Raven could assemble, but sign me up for the first issue when she does.
If you haven’t checked out this run of Raven yet, it’s not too late to jump in. Marv Wolfman is writing a superhero story that looks at power in a way we don’t get to see very often. Specifically- when do we use power, who do we manipulate with it, and how do we navigate a moral code knowing something more powerful can be right around the corner. This is not a book that will get your adrenaline pumping, and as of #2 I would not call it a page-turner yet, but Raven: Daughter of Darkness has not let me down yet. I’m looking forward to the next chapter.
Raven: Daughter of Darkness #2