Gotham Academy #1 “Welcome to Gotham Academy”
Written by Becky Cloonen and Brenden Fletcher
Art by Karl Kerschl
Gotham Academy is finally here, and school is in session! This book has gained quite a bit of hype recently, and I’ve anxiously been waiting to read it. Before we get into my review though, I want to be honest with you… I found this book very hard to review and score. That’s not to say it was bad – quite the opposite really – it’s just that everything about this book is new. There was nothing familiar to grab hold of, other than a cameo from Bruce Wayne, the Bat signal, or the fact that it’s in Gotham. As expected, there was a ton of exposition, with introductions to key characters, our setting, and the tone of the book. Again, this isn’t a bad thing, it just makes it difficult to critique.
We open with Olive Silverlocke and “Maps” Mizoguchi waiting to meet with Headmaster Hammer, or “Hammerhead” according to the students. Hammer informs Olive that she will be Maps’ nanny (think of a sorority girl’s big sister, but more proper and without the booze and shenanigans), since it’s Maps’ first year. This is amazing news for Maps, but Olive doesn’t seem too keen with the idea. Turns out, Olive’s soon-to-be ex-boyfriend, is Maps’ big brother, Kyle.
Olive shows Maps around the school, and along the way, we get to meet other students such as Olive’s roommate Lucy, Promeline Fritch, Colton Rivera, and the broodingly handsome Kyle. The Academy itself also feels like a character with its rich environment, history, and mythology. We even get a glimpse into their Gotham History class, where the teacher is covering the Cobblepots. On the blackboard, the teacher has listed the modules they’ll be covering… which is kind of awesome if I must say so.
Ultimately, it’s these elements that I find interesting and intriguing about this book. We’re getting a fresh look at the citizens of Gotham, specifically teenagers that aren’t super heroes or villains, completely engulfed in the chaos of Gotham. Instead, they’re the future of Gotham, living in its current shadow. Mystery can be found throughout the entire issue – some of it blatant, and some of it subtle. I won’t give anything away here, but you can find some specifics below.
The characters – or at least Olive and Maps – appear to be very well-rounded and real. They’re ultimately two teenage girls, so that clearly will cause the title to lean more towards a teenage-girl audience… but this book really is more than that. Neither of the girls are overly bratty or annoying, and both appear to contain a wisdom beyond their years – albeit, each in their own way. Olive has clearly had something happen in her life recently, and comments are made pertaining to how she’s changed; while Maps is more carefree, and self-aware with an adult intellect, but a childlike faith and confidence.
There is a little adventure in the issue – it is a comic book after all – a potential haunting, the Bruce Wayne cameo/ tie to the school, the kids thoughts on Batman, and a kick-ass lunch program that I haven’t even touched on. Yes, that’s right, I’m excited about Gotham Academy’s lunch program. And yes, I called it kick ass. (If you want to understand my attraction to this a little more, click my name at the top of the page and read my bio… the food mentioned in my bio, and the food mentioned here are practically the same!) But, if you want to get more details into everything listed above, then you’ll need to pick up the issue. And if nothing that was discussed above strikes you as interesting, then you should pick it up for the art alone.
- You want to read a fresh take on Gotham.
- You’ve wondered how the everyday people of Gotham view and live in their city
- You want to start a new, character driven book full of mystery.
There are spoilers below! Be warned!
The Art: I briefly mentioned the art above, so I really need to hype it up here. It’s amazing! I’ve said before that I’m not one to get caught up with the art, but it really is sooooo good here. Kerschl’s pencils are the foundation of this book. I tend to see people discussing how the characters are drawn when they comment on the art, but it’s the setting that I find fascinating. He adds SO MUCH character to this school. It feels like another world. There have been numerous comparisons to Harry Potter for this book, and most of them are visual. Yes, you have the fact that it’s a boarding school and that there’s some mystery, but the art defines the connection. Then there’s the storytelling he does in the background with the other characters/posters/ scenery… I loved it. AND he draws a fantastic Bruce Wayne!
I also want to comment on Geyser and Dave McCaig’s colors. They’re breathtaking. The artists complement each other so well, and breathe a unique life and energy into this book. KUDOS! If you want to see a sample, check out the spoiler tag.
The Good: I feel like there’s a lot of good here. Clearly we have the art. We have solid characters, a lot of foreshadowing and “easter eggs.” I enjoy Olive and want to learn more about her. I also enjoy Maps, and want to watch how their relationship ultimately changes Olive, and shapes Maps. I’ve noted this before, but I definitely get Buffy vibes from this book.
I mentioned subtle and blatant mysteries above. What I mean by that, is that we have blatant mysteries that are openly discussed/ shown. For example, the school is supposed to be haunted, there’s a creature in the school, and Hammer appears to be covering up some issues… but these aren’t the things I’m interested in.
I want to know more about Olive. What happened to her this past summer that “changed” her? What’s the story with her mother, and is it connected to what caused her to change? Why does she hate Batman? I find each of these more intriguing than the haunted/ creature aspect.
And why did Bruce Wayne select Olive to attend the school on scholarship? I mean, keep in mind that it’s Batman! He selected her for a reason, and if you doubt that, then re-read the panels where he sees Olive and Maps hanging outside the window of the auditorium. He’s WELL AWARE of who she is.
The Bad: Not much happens in this issue. The writers needed to set up this world, these characters, and this book, that there’s so much exposition. I think Cloonen and Fletcher did exactly what they needed to do, I’m just worried readers won’t give it a fair chance, and let it take it’s time to develop.
There’s also a slight identity crisis here, but I don’t feel like I’ve read enough of this book to finalize that declaration. I’m concerned the writers are completely sure who they want to target with this book, and that could lead to some opportunities down the road.
Overall: We barely scratch the surface of the endless potential that this book has. And that’s why it was so hard to score and critique this book. It’s situations like Gotham Academy, where I wish the debut could be a trade or mini collection consisting of roughly four issues. I believe it would sell more people on adding the title to their rotation, because they would have a stronger knowledge of what they’re really getting into. At the moment, and despite how much I want to, I don’t feel confident in saying, “Pull this book It’s amazing!!” because I don’t really know if it is worthwhile or holistically accurate. What I will confidently say, is that at the end of the issue, I wanted more. Gotham Academy offers up some goodness, covered in loads and loads of potential. And it’s that potential – after reading the issue a few times – that resulted in me landing on my final score.