This issue has everything you’ve come to expect from Gotham Academy: creepy locations, Maps being Maps, getting one question answered only to have it be replaced by three new ones, and quotes and references galore! (Can you hear the “but” coming?) While all this was wonderful…I couldn’t help but feel that the story was overly crowded with busyness, featured extremely convenient situations, and was edited in such a way that I felt like I had whiplash.
The story starts off with a wonderful fake out scare. We get POV shots that make us think a creature is barreling down on Olive, but it just turns out to be Maps. This piece of story boarding was particularly strong and provided a nice one-two punch of horror/comedy . It was a superb way to thrust us into the story. But from here on out, I felt like the editing and pacing decided that it was time to kick things into overdrive. In the course of 20 pages, we end up visiting 9 different locations, many of which are only featured on one page. Before I even got a chance to settle into my surrounding, I was thrust into a new environment. I considered that it was done intentionally in order to highlight just how rushed the kids were to get this recent ordeal taken care of, but at the same time, many of the one page jump cuts weren’t featuring moments of extreme haste, but the more leisurely sections of the story. It just didn’t read right to me.
Next was all the conveniences. It seems that whenever someone was trying to find someone else, they were always succeeding. Several times, characters were in the exact place they needed to be at the exact time they needed to be there to pull off the thing that only they could do. (Ex: Were-creature fight in Langstrom’s office that erupts through the window…well look there, the rest of the gang just happens to be in the courtyard right under that exact window!) It also seemed like this particular issue took great pains to try and give every character something meaningful to do which made it feel busy and divided. I get that this is an ensemble cast, but having issues where certain characters shine more than others seems more realistic than everyone always being able to provide useful input. To me, Pomeline’s contribution seemed the most unnecessary. Given that, we, as readers are all aware that Maps is an avid D&D player, there is no reason to believe that she wouldn’t already be aware of the info that Pomeline was trying to impart. In a way, it would have been more entertaining seeing Maps trying to give that speech to a less than accepting audience. As it stands, Kyle and Colton do try and contest Pomeline, but I would still rather have seen Maps giving it a go.
Speaking of Maps, she is as awesome as ever. What she says, the way she says it, and basically everything about her character is golden. I particularly enjoyed a scene in which she pulls out a copyrighted plan for how to take down the Werewolf. She relays the plan to the group, and even though it never gets carried out proper, we get to see it enacted through her words and some childlike doodles.
While the story did feel a little crowded and rushed to me, the flip side is that you definitely get your money’s worth in the content department. Not only does this issue feature the wrap up of a previous plot thread, it simultaneously succeeds in setting up multiple story points for the future, all while featuring developmental character moments and plenty of action. It’s actually rather impressive that they were able to juggle all those balls in the air and still deliver such a solid story.
Karl Kerschl handles art again, and again manages to deliver an experience filled with atmosphere and intrigue. While his detailed panels are a joy to look at, I have noticed that as the series has gone on, background-less panels have started to creep in with more regularity. This isn’t a negative so much as it is simply an observation and one that is usually unavoidable. You see, when a series is first starting out, an artist usually has time to knock out several issues before the first book even sees the shelves. If they start far enough out ahead they can usually keep a cushion in case they get delayed for some reason, but as time goes on, it might eventually gets to the point where an artist might be chasing deadlines and has to cut corners somewhere. It’s merely the nature of the beast.
- Two things come to mind when I look at Katherine. First, she kind of looks like Professor Milo from Batman: The Animated series, and second, her face slightly resembles the masks that The Court of Owls wear.
- This issue brings up Professor Milo and Werewolves. You can’t put those two in the same sentence and not mention Batman #255 (1974) by Len Wein and Neal Adams. This classic story was also adapted into an episode of Batman: The Animated Series.
- Hugo Strange first appeared in Detective Comics #36 (1940). This wasn’t a particularly memorable story, but “The Giants of Dr. Hugo Strange” that appeared later that year in the premiere issue of Batman is much more commonly known among Batman fans as a classic. Two other noteworthy appearances of Hugo Strange are the 1970 arc by Steve Englehart and Batman: Prey from Legends of the Dark Knight (1990).
- Olive and Maps talk about The House of Secrets in this issue, and while the one they are discussing isn’t the DC one, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the DC version of The House of Secrets.
- The House of Secrets was a horror comic produced by DC during the 50s, 60s, and 70s which featured random tales of suspense designed to quicken your pulse. In an offbeat/PG kind of way, Gotham Academy is a horror comic of sorts. It seems somewhat fitting to bring up House of Secrets in the review for their book.
- Back when I was a little kid, I remember my Grandfather kept a stack of The House of Secrets in the bathroom right behind the spare towels. I must have been 5 or 6 at the time. I don’t actually remember reading them, just flipping through and looking at all of the ghastly images. Good times…good times.
- The movie poster Olive has for the House of Secrets lists Simon Trent and Basil Karlo as cast members. These are the acting identities of The Gray Ghost and Clayface.
- Maps says, “In the pipe, 5×5.” This is pilot radio terminology for undamaged and all good/loud and clear. Leave it to Maps to say something like this.
- Nerf Herder…do I really have to tell you what Pomeline is quoting?
- Another quote?!?!?
- You love reading a comic that has Easter Eggs on almost every page.
- You can’t get enough of Karl Kerschl and his somber work.
While this wasn’t my favorite issue of Gotham Academy, the strong points of the story manage to overcome the problem areas enough that it was still a worthwhile read. In the greater scheme of things, I didn’t get the sense that this particular issue was all that detrimental, but it was a necessary stepping stone to progress the story. Even though I was a little critical of this specific chapter, on the whole, Gotham Academy is a highly entertaining book and always near the top of my “need to read” stack.
SCORE: 7.5 / 10