Gotham Academy #13 review

Gotham Academy 13

Zombies, “Robins”, and some teenage tension between Maps and Olive…..oh the horror!

Gotham Academy #13 is a tie-in for the currently running “Robin War” storyline.  It follows the exploits of Riko Sheridan, one of the primary cast members of We are Robin.  This issue bridges the gap for her from Robin War #1 to Detective Comics #47 and essentially lets us know what she was up to during her absence from Grayson #15.  Ultimately, her part in the story is somewhat irrelevant.  While she does provide some humorous moments and forces a small dramatic wedge between Olive and Maps, her inclusion is not vital to the A plot of this issue.  It’s also worth noting that being familiar with “Robin War” is not an integral requirement for you to be able to follow this particular tale.  The necessary information is divulged through the story itself.

ga13.2Headmaster Hammer is sooooo Dumbledore.

While this story is a “Robin War” tie-in, it also serves as a wonderful transition issue between the first arc of the title and the upcoming “Yearbook” arc.  Plenty of seeds are planted that present the cast with a multitude of new avenues to explore, while also acknowledging and paying homage to past adventures.

For regular Gotham Academy readers, the first thing you will notice is that Karl Kerschl is gone.  Kerschl has been the primary artist for Gotham Academy since issue #1.  Aside from #7, the EndGame tie-in, and a couple of flashback sequences here and there, he has lovingly illustrated every over-the-top adventure that our wacky band of teenage misfits has gotten themselves into.  For lack of a better word, his work was beautiful, and his environments were what I would call “museum worthy pieces”.  They went beyond traditional comic book art and captured a mood that defined the gothic gloomy world of Gotham Academy.  He will be sorely missed.

ga13.6Riko’s body language and slack jaw are beyond hilarious.

Maps is so nonchalant about her awesomeness.

After that, the next thing you will notice is that the story is a lot more lively and humorous than previous installments of Gotham Academy.  Don’t get me wrong, Gotham Academy always had humor, but this seemed more prevalent than usual.  At first, I thought it was just the art that was making things seem goofier than usual, but when I checked out the credits, I realized what was behind this playful atmosphere.  Not only did we lose Karl Kerschl, but Becky Cloonan is also missing in action.  Typically, Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher co-write each episode, but here, Fletcher is flying solo.  For those of you beginning to panic, fear not.  While Kerchl is most definitely moving on, Cloonan is just absent from this particular issue and will return next month.

And even if Cloonan wasn’t returning, I thought Fletcher did a bang up job all on his own.  As I already said, the issue is full of humor, but not only that, it references tons of previous issues of Gotham Academy.  Not in a way that if you had not read them you would be lost, but just fun little asides that allow long time readers to reminisce and new readers a taste of what they have been missing.

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The most interesting thing about this issue is the drama that plays out between Maps and Olive in regards to Riko.  Over the course of the story, their opinions flip flop as more and more information is revealed about the new student.  Initially, Maps sees her as a usurper, but quickly changes her tune when she realizes that Riko is a “Robin”.  It’s this same revelation that spins Olive in the opposite direction.  But it’s intriguing that her distaste isn’t spurned by her hatred of Batman, but for her love and concern for Maps.  I have always appreciated the way that relationships are handled on Gotham Academy.  While the problems addressed are indeed the problems of teenagers, the writers never talk down or disregard their problems as nothing more than the irrelevant dilemmas of some silly kids.  Everything is handled very seriously and respectfully with a maturity that is not always used in conjunction with children.

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Adam Archer is on pencils, and while his work is a far cry from what Kerchl was doing, I still found it enjoyable.  While his characters are a lot more cartoony and his environments are somewhat sparse by comparison, he manages to instill a bouncy energy in the cast that was quite contagious.  Characters sport many exaggerated facial expressions, but they lend themselves well to the anime-ish look that Kerchl’s style lightly embodied.  When a new artist comes on board, I’m always bothered when a different artistic style makes characters unrecognizable as themselves.  In Archer’s case, I am happy to say that he nails the character faces and iconographic images that were established by Kerchl.  The only thing that bugged me slightly was the way Kyle Mizoguchi carried a tennis racket throughout.  I know that the standard attire that was defined for Kyle was tennis apparel, but does he really need to be sporting the racket in almost every scene?

Errors and oddities:

ga13.8They weren’t wearing robes, they were wearing suits.

ga13.7Kind of unusual that a teacher and security guard both look the other way while Riko is blatantly dressed as a “Robin”.

ga13.9Damian shows up on the last page.  It comes out of nowhere and it just feels really odd.

In a way, it seems like there is a lot more to what is going on here than we are privileged to.  It’s also double peculiar because it seems to me that Damian’s appearance is setting us up for a bunch of future story lines that may never come.  Considering that the Yearbook story is supposedly flashbacks, and Damian is discussing the future, how long are we going to have to wait for this hook to yield fruit?  While I am interested in the “Yearbook” arc, this sudden appearance of Damian has me champing at the bit far more.

Recommended if…

  • You want to take the leap into Gotham Academy.   This issue serves as a good jumping on point between arcs.
  • You love Maps. (permanent sticky)
  • You’re willing to see what a new Gotham Academy artist can bring to the table.
  • You’re collecting the “Robin War” story arc.  This issue is a tie-in.
  • You want to see what a solo Brenden Fletcher is capable of.
  • You like reading teenage drama that is handled maturely.

Overall:

This was great!  I was really scared that the absence of Karl Kerschl was going to kill this book for me.  While different than what Kerschl was doing, Archer manages to bring a life and exuberance to the characters that was quite endearing.  The story by Brenden Fletcher is also one of the most comical and simultaneously heartfelt chapters of Gotham Academy yet.  At the end of the day, it all comes down to the characters.  When written with sincerity, you can’t help but fall in love with them.

SCORE: 8.5 / 10

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