Gotham Academy #5 “Save the Last Dance”
Written by Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher
Art by Karl Kerschl
Colors by Msassyk and Serge LaPointe

No, your eyes are not deceiving you. I gave this issue a 9.5! Why? Because we’re five months in, and this book continues to surprise me! It’s charming, fun, and has a lot of heart! Last month’s issue answered the lingering questions of whether there really are ghosts and monsters that roam the grounds of Gotham Academy. Turns out that the ghost is just a hoax – unbeknownst to Pomeline – but the monster is actually Killer Croc… And he just happens to have a connection to Olive’s mother.

“Save the Last Dance” picks up where the previous issue left off. Maps and Olive discovered secret tunnels and passages that wind through Gotham Academy. Their exploration results in Olive stumbling upon Croc, who has been hiding out in the passageways of the school. Desperate to learn how Croc knows her mother, she discovers that Croc was placed in a cell across from her mom at Arkham Asylum. When Arkham went down during Batman Eternal, Croc took the picture of Olive and her mother, and promised to watch over Olive. I love that the creative team is moving forward with this interpretation of Croc. For years, he’s been portrayed as a vicious, dumb monster, but lately, creative teams have been making an effort to flesh him out as a character. The monster is definitely still in there, but there’s also a kind, gentle heart to be found as well – especially towards children and those that are kind to him. Batman Eternal did an amazing job of showcasing this side of him, and it’s nice to see it carry forward.

Since Croc is a missing convict, he’s forced to remain in hiding, and flees when he hears Maps approaching. All Olive can focus on is finding out more about her mother, so Maps devises a plan to track Croc down using the secret passageways throughout the school… but once they deduct that he’s staying near the north hall, it’s obvious they’re going to need a little help.

Maps, in all of her awesomeness, takes the initiative to bring “the gang” back together. It’s a meeting of the minds, including Olive, Maps, Pomeline, and Colton – each of the kids having their own motivation to help track down Croc and get into the north hall. Before attempting to breach the north hall though, they’re going to have to break into Hammer’s office so Colton can get his supplies. Thankfully, there’s a school dance coming up, and it’s the perfect time to complete their mission.

The brief moments we get to see of the dance are entertaining and it allows some fun snapshots of the characters, but it’s the following adventure that really makes this issue worthwhile. After the group breaks into Hammer’s office, they set off across the grounds to the north hall, and from here on, the book issues one reveal after another. Remember the mysterious guy Tristan? You learn what’s up with him. You know how everyone keeps reference Olive and the past summer? You get more answers into what actually happened. Killer Croc? Yep! More info on Olive’s mother? You better believe it! I literally reached the back half of this issue and just kept thinking, “Oh wow! We’re getting answers! Oh look! More answers!” But to keep suspense, each answer only creates more questions, or reveals more mysteries before the book closes on a cliff hanger! Everything about this issue is fun and entertaining, and I can’t wait to see what happens next month!

 

Be warned, there are spoilers below.


The Art:
Do I really need to praise Kerschl’s art again? I mean, really? It’s amazing! There’s a vibrant, energetic element to his art that helps this book stand out from anything else in DC’s line-up. My one callout, and I didn’t notice this until I went back through the issue to pull images of the internal art, is that he doesn’t feel the pages with scenery here as he usually does. Typically, the layouts sit nicely on top of a corresping backdrop. But here, there are some pages where the layouts are essentially just floating on black space. I was a little disappointed once I noticed it, but it didn’t hinder my reading experience, and everything else is fantastic! Take a gander for yourself!

Spoiler

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The Good:
 

It’s charming. This book is such a breath of fresh air, and is full of likeable, fun characters. Yes they’re teenagers, and yes they act like teens from time to time, but they’re also very mature for their age. Olive has moments of great complexity and understanding that are easily relatable for people of any age. There are so many identifiable traits buried deep within her, and I love uncovering the layers of who she is month after month. She represents a great balance of innocence and strength, with a desire to understand the world.

Maps. She is, by far, the coolest young lady in DC’s roster at the moment. Everything about her is awesome. I’m a little shy of thirty, and I just want to tell her how amazing she is, then beg her to by my friend. Yes, she’s that cool!

Tristan. Well that was a nice little twist that I didn’t see coming! He’s a man-bat thanks to the Langstrom virus that was used as a weapon during Detective Comics. It’s a great way to add additional intrigue for this character, and plays perfectly into this innocent outlook of “monsters.”

Last summer! What in the hell happened during the summer? Over the past few issues, we’ve learned Olive got caught up in something, that it was on school grounds, and that there was a fire. But now we know she was practically possessed during all of this, and most likely would’ve died had Tristan not saved her.

 


The Bad:

Cartoony Croc. I know, I know… I just praised the use of Croc and how they interpreted the character, so why am I listing him as a negative element of the book? I don’t want to say that it was bad, but it did bother me that Croc was somewhat “cartoony.” I don’t mean his appearance either. Physically, his look reminds me of Killer Croc from Batman the Animated Series, and I LOVE that nod. What I didn’t like, is that he was kind of like a stray puppy. He runs away when someone is coming near, and is eventually lured out of hiding with food… It was a little much.


Recommended if:

  • You’re looking for a fun, family-friendly book.
  • You want to know more about Olive’s mother.
  • You want to learn more about Tristan.
  • You want to learn more about what happened during the summer. 



Overall:
Gotham Academy is an absolute joy, and continues to prove itself each month! I look forward to spending time with these characters, and this issue delivers unlike any issue before it!

 

SCORE: 9.5/10