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Review: DC Comics’ Gotham Academy #4

Friends. You gotta get this comic.


Gotham Academy #4 is out this Wednesday. Let me tell you about Gotham Academy. Let me tell you why you should be buying Gotham Academy.

This absolute treat of a kid- but also adult-appropriate comic series from DC (written by Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher with art by Karl Kerschl) tells the tale of high school student Olive Silverlock and her younger friend Maps during Maps’ first year at their esteemed local preparatory school… which happens to be located in Gotham City. And like so many things in Gotham City, this school has its secrets. Like the strange old symbol carved into the Gothic architecture. And the ghost of Millie Jane Cobblepot apparently haunting the dorms. And a creature sighted in the abandoned North Hall. So, of course Olive and Maps start investigating. On top of that, Olive has her own mystery involving her mom and her own problems to sort out, including her sort-of-still-boyfriend Kyle who also happens to be Maps’ brother.

Oh, and what’s with that Bruce Wayne guy popping in on the school?

With a silver-haired protagonist and the spooky setting, Gotham Academy is like a high school manga mixed with Nancy Drew and a dash of the Scooby-Doo gang, all set in a city where seeing the Bat-Signal outside your window is downright pedestrian.

I’ll state it right now — for anyone who hasn’t checked out Gotham Academy yet, this is the time to do it. As of this Wednesday you’ve only got four issues to catch up on and this new one is just so meaty. It reveals just enough of the truth to feel satisfying as a reader as you wait for issue five, but at the same time the mystery is far from over. There are actually all new elements to the mysteries of the school introduced, even down to the last couple pages (the second to last has a full-page panel that captures the moment of surprise in a way I absolutely adore).

Beyond just the mysteries, the real strength of this issue in general is Olive’s interactions with her classmates. Sure, there’s the mysterious good looking boy who keeps popping up and may or may not be a ghost. There’s also Heathcliff, a casual friend of Olive’s who is good natured and happens to have the best hair in the cast. But what I really dig more than anything is the female characters interacting. That is how you win me over, Gotham Academy, and you brought it this issue.

Take supernatural enthusiast Pomeline, for example. Pomeline isn’t a friend to Olive (yet), but since putting aside their differences in #3 you get the sense that they are getting dangerously close to being friends. Already the “mean girl” of the book is showing some of her layers, which I like. For her part, Olive is starting to sympathize with her would-be enemy, even feeling sorry for something she learns about Pomeline towards the end of the issue. It might take a few more adventures together (and when you’re in a school like the Academy, mysteries don’t seem in short supply) but I hope to see them become genuine, although possibly reluctant, friends over the course of the book.

And then there’s Maps. OH MAPS. She’s just cute as a button, the biggest nerd in a tiny little package and always so enthusiastic. Her passion for cartography and adventuring continues on this month in a few different ways, including Olive walking in on her in art class as she’s painting a monster that looks suspiciously like the Beholder from Dungeons and Dragons. I’m just imagining her proudly hanging up this huge painting of the Beholder in her little dorm room when it’s done.

Another thing I love? Olive and Maps working together, which #4 has in spades. The early issues had Olive wanting to keep Maps at arm’s length after the trauma over the summer that Olive is still trying to understand. Sure, it makes sense for her to pull away at the beginning, but having her keep pulling away issue after issue was something I didn’t want to see. Luckily, the talk with Kyle in #3 stuck with her and she’s not hesitating to go to Maps for help. Help, in this case, includes interrogating a suspicious student. And Maps is the bad cop.

I repeat — when using the good cop/bad cop technique, Maps is the bad cop. It is as adorable as you’re imagining it to be.

There are certainly other details from the issue to look out for. Two new teachers are introduced to us: one is based on GA’s assistant editor Matt Humphreys and the other is a fan-favorite character pulled right out of the DCAU (and I hope you all hear the voice actor when reading his dialogue). Mild mannered billionaire and school alum Bruce Wayne makes another appearance, albeit brief, as he’s talking to Professor MacPherson about something personal. One of the smartest things Cloonan and Fletcher have done so far is using restraint when including Bruce in the book. Batman is certainly a part of this story, but it’s not his story by any means. Kerschl continues to draw Bruce super dreamy, this time in a v-neck/blazer combo, and quite frankly it’s refreshing to see Bruce Wayne drawn as a bit of eye candy for once.

Speaking of the art, I’d be remiss to not mention the gorgeous colors by Msassyk and Serge LaPointe, who aren’t afraid to make daytime at the school be bright and colorful while giving the hallways and nighttime scene an eerie atmosphere by layering shadows against the colors instead of making the whole book black and grey. That along with the dynamic way Kerschl sets up the pages makes this whole series just so dang pretty.

If you haven’t gotten around to checking Gotham Academy out or you’re behind on the earlier three issues, I’d highly recommend using this week to catch up. And if you’ve got kids who are looking to get into comics, this is one book you absolutely need to try reading together.

Katie Schenkel (@JustPlainTweets) is a copywriter by day, pop culture writer by night. Her loves include cartoons, superheroes, feminism, and any combination of the three. Besides The Mary Sue, her work can be found on PanelsCliqueClack, and her own website Just Plain Something, where she hosts the JPS podcast and her webseries Driving Home the Movie. She’s also a frequent TMS commenter as JustPlainSomething.

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