This issue marks the first chapter in the Yearbook storyline, and to be honest, it’s quite disappointing. With a majority of the stories lasting no longer than 4 pages, you aren’t really given too much time to enjoy the worlds you enter before it is time to move on, and in other cases, you are forced to stay too long. On top of that, there is some rather abrasive art that doesn’t really gel well with the style this book has come to be known for. Throw in a bit of questionable character portrayals for good measure, and you have a Gotham Academy story that stands as an all time low from one of my favorite series.
The basic gist of the story is that Maps didn’t get in on the Yearbook club, so her and Olive are making their own Yearbook, and including all the bizarre stories that they wouldn’t have been able to include in the regular Yearbook anyway. What follows is the girls recounting several past events, each of which is handled by a different creative team. Since multiple artist and writers contributed to this issue, I’m going to break things down by their respective sections.
Yearbook: Part One
The contemporary portion of our tale is brought to us by Brenden Fletcher, with Adam Archer on art duties. Seeing as how Fletcher has been a series regular since issue one, it shouldn’t be surprising that his sections are the most in tune with the character’s established personalities, but what was surprising was Archer’s improvements in the visual department. Last time, I was pretty happy with his character models, but only one issue later, and Archer is already proving successful at mimicking the somber tones that Gotham Academy is known for. In the Robin War tie-in, which premiered his artwork, Archer was paired with a colorist who’s work came off as rather flamboyant. For this issue, Archer handles pencils and color, and it makes a world of difference. The one small negative I have in regards to his character work, is that he makes Olive smile way too much. Now maybe this is a turning point for her character, and she is just a happier person, but I’m just not used to her flashing so many teeth.
Animal Science 101
The Colton Rivera story is written by Derek Fridolfs, with art by Dustin Nguyen. The story itself is nothing to write home about: mindless action with a silly punchline.
Then again, it does feature a deranged mutant killer goat with wings…so there is that.
What I did find interesting was the art. At first, I thought it seemed a little incomplete, but then it occurred to me that perhaps it was meant to be less detailed. After all, since this story was a recounting of past events, it is entirely playing out in our characters minds. Much like a dream, the details become a little fuzzy as we only really focus on the major beats.
In their mind’s eye, Pomeline sure doesn’t look much like herself.
Katie Cook does double duty on art and writing for this particular tale. Of the stories presented, this one felt the most concrete; with a concise beginning, middle, and end that wrapped up in a satisfying manner. It also held true to the Gotham Academy tenet of introducing a situation that we are initially lead to believe is supernatural, but then providing a much more plausible explanation.
Character wise, I thought this story was rather off in its portrayal of Maps. She becomes overly distracted by cute kitty videos, and at the expense of a case no less! I find it hard to believe that a character who has been shown to be overly obsessed with detecting could possibly be mesmerized in the very middle of a case by something so banal.
While the art was a huge departure for Gotham Academy, it did seem like the kind of thing that Maps might doodle in a notebook. I actually thought all the little text-planations next to unclear artwork was rather sweet and endearing. Really reminded me of how little kids needed to explain their art since it isn’t visually distinct enough to stand on its own. The art also bares a remote resemblance to the kinds of kiddy drawings that Maps is always making of her master plans, so even thought is seems striking to go from Archer to Cook, the art does have a precedent in Gotham Academy.
I also appreciated the jab at the overuse of smartphones our culture seems to have.
Hope Larson handles this portion of the book, with Kris Mukai on art, and this was my least favorite section of the book. Oddly enough, my least favorite section ended up monopolizing almost half the book! While everyone else only got 4 pages to do their thing, for some reason, this story was granted 8 whole pages! To be honest, I’m not sure why. It didn’t feature a principal character, instead focusing on the childhood of one of the kid’s teachers, and also features some very questionable artwork. I know that art is a very subjective thing, but I am sure we can all agree that this is not superhero comic book art. Maybe flipping from Archer to Cook was a bit of a shock, but now imagine flipping from Archer to Mukai for the first time. Wait. Let’s not even imagine it, let’s just look at it. Going from this:
On top of that, the story is extremely generic. Wallflower gets a makeover and realizes that she is cooler than the popular girls. If someone handed me this story without the adjoining material, I’d have no way of even knowing that it was connected to Gotham Academy.
I think one of my biggest problems with this story arc is that there doesn’t seem to be any discernible connectivity between any of the stories. They are just a hodgepodge of random stuff. It would have been cool if some little detail from each story when pieced together was the clue to some overarching problem that the team needed to solve. As if, all this time, something had been staring them in the face, but only now in hindsight do they pick up on it.
The other thing that would have been wildly more entertaining than what we were given was a little point of view thrown into the stories. For instance, if Maps were telling a story, it gets told entirely through a Dungeon & Dragon filter! Or having someone interject in the middle of a story, exclaiming that the teller is telling it wrong, and proceed to correct them with their own version. Part of the fun in telling stories verbally, is building off of one another and how things in stories tend to snowball over time. I know that some of my personal tales have become more and more exaggerated over the years, and it is always amusing when someone who was actually there calls you on your crap. (well, not always amusing)
Maybe in the future, it will turn out that stuff is more intertwined than I thought, but at the moment, it just feels like there was no real collaboration between the teams. Everyone just did their work, turned it in, and it got spliced together.
- You want 4 “stories” for the price of one.
- You want to support this book till they get back to the interesting stories.
If you’ve read any of my previous reviews for Gotham Academy, you know that I tend to shower it with pretty much constant praise. Having said that, I’m not going to allow my love for the series to blind me to what is most clearly a sub par chapter. I really wish I could tell you that this was awesome, but then I would be lying to you and myself, and I’m not going to do that. Providing a blurb as to why I thought the book wasn’t all that good isn’t really that easy when you consider that 7 different writers and artists contributed to the content. It’s not as simple as blaming one aspect or individual, when many disparate elements contributed to the books downfall. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that there isn’t good writing and art in the book, but when you take everything into consideration, there is a lot of less than stellar stuff included that contributes to a pretty rough read.
SCORE: 3.5 / 10