Sometimes the elements of a story align themselves so perfectly that they create a vision greater than the sum of their parts.  This is one of those times.

Without a shadow of a doubt, this is my all-time favorite issue of Gotham Academy so far.  It almost seems as though this issue was tailor made for me.  I’m a big fan of the creepy, spooky, or just slightly  off-kilter…and this book has plenty of that type of atmosphere.  In fact, there is so much that it oozes in droves off the pages.  You wouldn’t think that a comic, which you turn page by page at your own leisure, would be capable of a jump scare.  But I think this one just might have succeeded.

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I’m also a huge fan of the works of William Shakespeare.  In a way, one could say that this issue was a tribute to William Shakespeare.  Initially, I thought that this book was only going to highlight Shakespeare’s Macbeth.  But that is far from the case.  The acting teacher at Gotham Academy, Simon Trent, has a habit of speaking in Shakespearean lines.  This means that numerous samplings of the Bard’s work are scattered throughout the story.  At the end of the book, he also has a line reading battle royale with his arch enemy.  What is that you ask?  Most people are familiar with what a dance-off is.  A competition where two dancers face off and and take turns trying to out dance one another, continually uping their game as the competition continues.  This issue featured the actors equivalent of that, but instead of battling with righteous dance moves, they combat each other with eloquent and moving line delivery.  The inclusions of the lines throughout is actually pretty impressive in the sense that they aren’t just thrown in randomly but make sense in the given context.  I give a lot of Kudos to the writing team for pulling this off successfully.  The only thing that surprised me was that Shakespeare didn’t receive an acknowledgment in the credits, given how many lines are straight out of his plays.

This issue also continues the trend of paying homage to Batman: The Animated Series.  Of which I am also a huge fan.  (See, I wasn’t kidding when I said that this issue felt tailor made for me.)  At this point in Gotham Academy, I am realizing that anyone who isn’t familiar with The Animated Series is doing themselves a huge disservice.  First, by having not treated yourself to the show to begin with (it’s awesome) and second, I feel that being familiar with it will give you a whole new level of appreciation for this comic.  I usually wouldn’t feel comfortable advising someone to spend 100+ dollars on something they weren’t looking to get.  But this is one of those instances where I am so sure that you will like it, that I simply have to tell you to buy it.  If you are a fan of Batman, you would be hard pressed not to like Batman: The Animated Series.  It’s beyond the level of must watch material.

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Maps!  This character is unstoppable in her awesomeness.  Just when I think that she can’t get any more awesome…she does.  There is a section in this story where she hits you with a triple whammy.  I’m reading along, and she says something that makes me literally laugh out loud.  I continue reading, and before I have a chance to recover, she blurts out another line that has me rolling.  There’s also a part in the story where Maps and Olive have a touching moment together.  You see, Olive didn’t tell Maps a secret, so maps gets verklempt.  But just when I thought things were about to turn sappy, Colton finds a pair of muddy footprints, and Maps does a total 180.  She goes from the saddest I have ever seen her to: “forget that mushy nonsense, we got muddy footprints here people!”

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Karl Kerschl handles art for this issue, and like I already stated, this book simply oozes with atmosphere.  There isn’t a page that goes by that doesn’t have some eerie element to it.  I was particularly impressed with his rendition of the mystery villain for this issue.  It’s basically an exact copy of the way this villain appeared in Batman: The Animated Series.  Simply loved it.  Having said that, I couldn’t help but notice that, while the villain was drawn to a T, Simon Trent didn’t look like his animated series self.  I’m not calling this out as a negative, just an observation.  In actuality, I quite preferred his visual take on the character.  Keeping with the spooky theme, I feel like Kerschl may have been channeling a bit of Vincent Price in the character design of his Simon Trent.

I had one very small nitpick about something that happened with the mystery villain, but seeing as how I can’t discuss that without giving him away, I’ll just let it go.

Spoiler

  • What?  You thought I was going to give up his identity in the spoiler tag?  Go read the book!

Interesting Facts:

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  • Simon Trent was a character from Batman: The Animated Series.  He appeared in the episode  Beware the Gray Ghost.  In the episode, Trent is an actor who plays the character of Gray Ghost on TV.  Gray Ghost is essentially The Animated Series version of The Shadow.  Much in the way that The Shadow was one of the inspirations behind Batman in the real world, Gray Ghost is one of Bruce’s inspirations in The Animated Series world to become Batman.
  • It is also worth noting that Adam West, the actor who played Batman on the 1966 TV series, voices Simon Trent in Batman: The Animated Series.

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  • The shadow was one of the pulp characters from 1930.  He predated Batman by 9 years and is one of the inspirations behind the creation of Batman.

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  • In Batman #253 (1973), Batman meets The Shadow in continuity and personally recognizes him as one of his inspirations.
  • I’d love to drop a heaping ton of interesting facts on the secret villain for this issue, but I really really really don’t want to spoil it for you.
  • Here are but a few of the Shakespeare plays that featured lines in this issue: Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night, Hamlet, Julius Caesar, Othello, As You Like It, Winter’s Tale, and The Tempest.
  • I’ve seen a couple of instances where people have compared Gotham Academy to Harry Potter.  Well, now it’s my turn.  I present to you the “Hogwarts Children Choir” singing “Double Double Toil and Trouble” from “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”

Recommended if…

  • You are a fan of William Shakespeare.
  • You like when stories have a dark and creepy undertone.
  • You love Batman: The Animated Series.
  • You recognize Karl Kerschl for the master that he is.
  • You love Maps!  (I should probably just sticky this one)

Overall:

This book hits the perfect sweet spot for me.  It has just the right amount of humor, scares, and references to make it stand out as a truly great issue.  Add Karl Kerschl’s outstanding visuals to the mix and this becomes an unbeatable tale.  The creative team proves once again that they understand the world of Batman almost better than any other team out there right now.  They strive to recognize the past while also forging ahead to create something new for the future.  I’d even go so far as to say that it epitomizes the best of what a comic should be.  If you thought this book was nothing more than a couple of teenage girls at a boarding school, you are sorely mistaken.  I can’t recommend this book enough.  If you don’t at least pick it up and give it a chance, you only have yourself to blame.

SCORE: 9.5 / 10