Gotham Academy #8: “Requiem”
Written by Becky Cloonan & Brenden Fletcher
Illustrated by Karl Kerschl
Colors by Serge Lapointe & Michele Assarasakorn
Letters by Steve Wands

Greetings. It is I, not-Brandon and not-Josh. Brandon took the week off, as you may have heard, so Josh was going to review this title this week, but his workload along with going to SDCC was a bit much so I volunteered to take it off his hands. Rest assured I love this book as much as he does and have been a fan since day one, so I’m coming into this issue hoping for good things. Now let’s get started, shall we?

Last month’s issue ended with a cliffhanger that, if you read between the lines, was fairly easy to figure out. That doesn’t make it any less tragic, though, as Olive’s mom has died.

Instead of spending the issue focusing on Olive’s grief, however, Cloonan and Fletcher follow Maps’ brother Kyle as he investigates their schoolmate Tristan, suspected werebat. This is actually a pretty wise choice, as it both keeps Olive’s secrets under wraps just a bit longer and let’s us get to know some of the other members of the cast.

Initially motivated by jealousy, Kyle follows Tristan around campus until he comes upon the lab of the new science teacher: Dr. Kirk Langstrom.

One of my favorite things about this book is how some unused or outright obscure characters have been refitted as members of the school’s staff. It keeps the Academy connected to the larger Bat-universe while also providing fresh takes on the characters. Langstrom joins the ranks of Aunt Harriet and Bookworm, amongst others, and he’s a welcome addition.

In the lab, Kyle sees Tristan transform into a bat-creature and runs to tell Olive, who is still grieving and also a bit annoyed at his obvious jealousy. She dismisses it out of hand, but Maps is in the walls (of course she is) and overhears.

She’s excited, to say the least.

Maps is the best.
Love that small detail of her chewing on the journal.  Maps is the best.

They eventually track down Tristan in the graveyard (the journey to which has Maps quoting Bram Stoker’s Dracula of all things), only to find him lying injured by some unknown assailant.

In the end, there’s a nice quiet moment between Olive and Kyle, where she opens up a bit more about her struggles and past history. This thread is getting more intriguing as time is going on, and it will be interesting to see how Olive takes control of her abilities and whether she uses them for good or not.

Plot-wise this issue is slower and a bit more intimate than normal, but that’s not bad by any means. I actually enjoyed getting to spend time with Kyle, and Maps is always welcome.

When this book was announced, I wasn’t skeptical, but I didn’t think it would be for me: with a focus on two teenage girls in school with only the loosest of ties with Batman, I was glad to see a more female-oriented book coming out but planned on giving it a pass. Obviously I didn’t, and like I said earlier, I’ve been hooked since day one. Like Grayson, it offers a fresh perspective on the superhero world, and even though it stars teenagers it’s mercifully light on the angst and drama, instead focused more on their collective innocence and the fun they have. Kudos to Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher for crafting such an engaging book with smart characters, while simultaneously either sidestepping or inverting clichés.

And Maps is the best, of course.

The art has had its share of criticism in some circles, accused of being too derivative of Manga and the distracting plaid patterns of the uniforms receiving a bit of scorn. I don’t agree with either criticism, but they’re stylistic choices that aren’t necessarily for everyone. Even the critics of Kerschl, Lapointe, Assarasakorn, and Wands should be able to appreciate some of the things they’re doing. I particularly loved this panel, with the lead representing Kyle’s lack of interest in the conversation:

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And each of these gorgeously colored panels could have easily been a storyboard for a Miyazaki film:

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Absolutely beautiful work there.

In the end, this was more of a “monster of the week” issue: the main narrative took a backseat so a secondary character could get the spotlight.  That’s always a nice change of pace, and nicer still when it’s this good.

Recommended if:

  • You’re a fan of this series.
  • You like Man-Bat(s).
  • You want to see some absolutely gorgeous artwork.
  • No no, seriously: Maps=The Best

Overall: A nice break from the overarching plot, the creative team shine the spotlight on a character I never gave much of a second thought and spin a fine yarn out of it.  That, while also delicately handling subjects like the loss of a parent, grief, and guilt, plants the seeds for some intriguing plots to come in one of the best surprises of the past year.

SCORE: 8/10