REVIEW: GOTHAM ACADEMY Vol. 1 – Welcome to Gotham Academy

Gotham_Academy_Vol_1_1

 TITLE:   Gotham Academy Vol. 1: Welcome to Gotham Academy

WRITTEN BY:  Becky Cloonan, Brendan Fletcher

COVER BY:      Karl Kerschel

ART BY:           Karl Kerschel

PUBLISHER:    DC Comics

OFFICIAL BLURB taken form the DC Comics website…

Gotham City’s most prestigious prep school is a very strange place. It’s got a spooky campus, oddball teachers, and rich benefactors always dropping by…like that weirdo Bruce Wayne. But nothing is as strange as the students! Like, what’s up with Olive Silverlock? Is she crazy or what? Where did she go last summer? And what’s the deal with her creepy mom? And how come that freshman Maps is always following her around? And is she still going out with Kyle? P.S. Did you hear the rumor about the ghost in the North Hall?! It’s all here in these tales from issues #1-6 of the new series! 

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When the New 52 was announced, many gave it a pass. To different, too radical, too much too soon, was how many of the longtime fans have felt about it. It did not help that the titles were shuffled around and inconsistencies sprung up with every issue. If it had a history in the DCU before, chances are that there were going to be some growing  pains.

Luckily, there was also new titles which had no such history and had no true issues with inter-title continuity. Gotham Academy was one of those.

Gotham Academy Vol. 1: Welcome to Gotham Academy is a different look at the much used Gotham City setting and the Batman mythos. We are first introduced to the protagonist Olive Silverlock as she and new student Mia “Maps” Mizoguchi are awaiting a meeting with the Headmaster of Gotham Academy, a tall and foreboding man named Hammer. It seems that Olive had been caught calling the headmaster “Hammer Head”. From there, the book takes you at a pleasant clip as it introduces the various other characters and the pecking order at the school.

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My standard disclaimer: Despite this being a collection of already published issues, I am not in the business of spoiling anything. If you, like me, have a tendency to “wait for the trade” then you also deserve the chance to read the story as it unfolds and with no prior knowledge.

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Collecting the first six issues of the monthly series, we are taken on a mystery trip with the feel of a gothic novel; I refer to the classic literature genre, not the modern interpretation.  Olive Silverlock is cut from the classic Gothic mold of a young girl placed in a situation which she feels she cannot reveal to anyone. She walks the halls of the Academy and reflects on her problems and how since last summer, everything has changed, she is different, and no one understands. At first read, it comes off as a very teenager sort of angst, but as the book progresses, you find that Olive has real reason to worry about how her fellow students and friends see her. It is just one of the many mysteries which are touched on as the story progresses. Olive becomes a deeper character than expected, in fact, a deeper character than you would find in many other comics.

I mentioned her other classmates. While it is important, and refreshing, to realize that while they too fit in the stereotypical molds of teenage school stories, they grow as well. You have Mia “Maps” Mizoguchi, the young new student at the Academy to whom Olive has been assigned as a mentor/guide to acclimate her to the school. “Maps” is a full on RPG nerd, right down to the role-playing references and referring to their various adventures in RPG terms. It is a refreshing change from the awkward male teen geek who would normally fill this role. She is the propellant that thrust Olive into several of the situation they find themselves in, and in many aspects seems to be the glue that will hold this burgeoning band of junior detectives together. Did I mention that she is also the kid sister of Kyle Mizochugi, tennis star, popular kid, and boyfriend of Olive…maybe? Pomeline Fitch starts out as a sort of enemy to Olive, but over the course moves more to a frienemy status. She’s dark, with a fascination for ghost and magic and she fits right in to the feel of the Academy. Her boyfriend is a rather unremarkable kid named Heathcliff, but the name alone gives him a pass in this neo-gothic setting. Then we have the school bad boy, a young hood named Colton Rivera, he’s into fireworks, hacking, lock picking, and trouble. Now, the question is, do any of Olive’s fellow students have connections with the Dark Knight, or other famous Gothamites?

The students are not the only interesting characters, the faculty surprises as well. Fans of the BATMAN ’66 comic or the classic Adam West Batman television series are sure to be delighted with the various characters who pop-up. Have fun identifying them all!

But, what Gotham based title would be complete without an appearance by the cities Dark Knight. Olive is tied to Batman in surprising ways, ways even she does not remember fully, and that is one of the suspenseful storylines in the book; what connection would a young teenage girl have with the Guardian of Gotham? Find out, and be ready for a special guest start toward the end, it’s worth it, and sets up a whole new slew of possibilities for future issues.

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Co-writers Becky Cloonan (AMERICAN VIRGIN, Southern Cross) and Brendan Fletcher (BATGIRL, ASSASSINS CREED: BRAHMAN) really have opened up a unique tale of teen angst, self-discovery, and dark rituals. The voices of the characters all sing true to their selves and add a layer that some comics are missing. It would have been easy to shot for a straight for a “super hero” school, or a Hogwarts, but with the nods to classic gothic stories, it feels… more, even if it might escape some readers.

The artwork by Karl Kerschel (MAJESTIC, TEEN TITANS: YEAR ONE) shines as well. There is a near anime feel that helps soften the dark setting, and allows for more expression of the characters. The backgrounds are detailed, and draw you in. Beautiful work.

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Overall, Gotham Academy Vol. 1: Welcome to Gotham Academy, is a book that does not disappoint. You have ghosts, mysterious stalkers, strange afflictions, hidden passages, and hilarious role-playing references all in one book. It is a genre bending story that has something for everyone, from the indie fan to the union suit hard case. From pre-teen to forty-something, readers of all ages can find something to like here.

Gotham Academy Vol. 1: Welcome to Gotham Academy, gets listed as a must buy. I give it an enthusiastic thumbs up!

Gotham Academy Vol. 1: Welcome to Gotham Academy, collects issues 1-6 of the regular series from writers Brendan Fletcher (BATGIRL, WEDNESDAY COMICS: THE FLASH) and Becky Cloonan (AMERICAN VIRGIN) with art by Karl Kerschel (MAJESTIC, TEEN TITANS: YEAR ONE). It can currently be found in your local comic shop, bookstore, online,and other fine retailers of quality.

 

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