This month’s issue of Gotham Academy is leaps and bounds better than the first two installments of the Yearbook story arc. The first positive in its favor is the extremely Maps-centric nature of the stories. For me, the more involved Maps is in any given story, the more entertaining I usually find it. Second, the writers on duty were much more successful at capturing the essence of the characters. And lastly, an attempt to cram 3 or 4 stories into one issue wasn’t made this time around. Instead, we only have 2 stories to digest. This allows more pages to be allocated to the stories at hand (or at least one of them), providing some much needed breathing room, and permitting us more opportunity to become immersed in the world being created.
I’ve been starting off these Yearbook reviews going over the “Now” moments before diving into the actual stories. With each consecutive issue, I’ve noticed that we spend less and less time in the “Now” and more time focusing on the Yearbook stories themselves. This issue only has two pages dedicated to “Now”. While that doesn’t give Fletcher and Archer much to do in their own book, I think it’s a smart choice. The “Now” moments have been little more than connective threads that added little to the book as a whole. Saving much needed page space for the actual stories only makes sense. Although….it was pretty funny seeing Damian get all flustered by Pomeline’s interrogation.
I already mentioned that one of the stories was given more time to do its thing. This wasn’t that one. Regardless, at only 4 pages long, it still managed to tell an entire 3 act story. While length can be a real hindrance to success, Tynion proves that it isn’t necessarily a precursor to failure. And it’s not just that he manages to tell an acceptable story, but a downright entertaining one at that.
What a mercenary.
Basically, Maps wants to break into Police Headquarters (with Colton’s help) in order to activate the Bat-Signal and meet her hero, Batman. Since the mission will require her to stay up super late, Maps has some coffee. Keep in mind, Maps is already an insanely flamboyant character. While she does do some outlandish stuff while under the influence, admittedly, I’ve seen here just as hopped up without any stimulants. Given that, I would have liked to have seen her pushed just a little more to the extreme, but it’s still entertaining nonetheless.
You’ll get more than just laughs out of this story. Tynion manages to capture both characters’ personalities to perfection. I once read that you shouldn’t make up dialogue to give to your characters. The characters “exist”, and already have stuff that they want to say and would say. As a writer, it’s your job to get in the character’s head and channel them so that they are simply speaking through you. That is what I feel Tynion has done here, and it’s simply wonderful.
Art for this story is handled by Christian Wildgoose (what a name!). Much in the same way that Tynion captures their words, Wildgoose completely embodies them through the visuals. And it’s not just the fact that they look like themselves, but it’s how he captures the essence of the characters through their body language and posturing. He really brought them to life. And while I’m pointing out character, you should really take a look at all the tertiary characters that pop up in this story. They are completely unimportant background noise to the actual story, but they all have a personality to them that adds to the reality of the world that Wildgoose is bringing to life. The details that he puts into them just adds an extra layer of diversity and nuance to the surroundings.
Lastly is the satisfaction gained from seeing the fruit of Maps’s efforts. Maybe Damian thinks this story is implausible, but Batman has always had a soft spot for kids and their innocence, which totally makes it work as far as I’m concerned. If I were judging this issue based on this 4-page snippet alone, I’d give it an easy 9. Bravo.
Boring Sundays is the second story and takes up about 75% of the book. Right off the bat, I’m going to get it out of the way and say I don’t like the art. I wouldn’t say it’s bad, because it isn’t, I just don’t like it. A rule of thumb I usually go by is: if I can do it, it’s not worth paying for. When I buy a nationally published comic from one of the big two, I expect to be given grade A art every single time, and this simply isn’t.
While I didn’t care for the art, it wasn’t so distracting that I couldn’t enjoy what the the story did have to offer. Plot and character are all pretty much on-point throughout, and for a change, it actually feels like a Gotham Academy story again. You know what I mean….secret school mysteries and the gang champing at the bit to solve them. Even though the twist slightly throws the mystique that was being built right out the window, it replaces it with the idea of friendship and comradery. A theme that has been equally important, if not more so, to the life blood that is Gotham Academy.
Sometimes when I throw an interesting fact together, I feel silly because I think I am telling everyone something they already know. Case in point, this interesting fact. I kind of assume everyone knows this, but then I remind myself that even though this is common knowledge to me and a part of pop culture, it is referencing something that is 50 years old. So this one is for all you youngins out there who are new to the world of Batman.
- From 1966 to 1968, Batman had a live action TV show, succinctly called Batman. Every two part story had a cliffhanger at the end of the first part that reminded you to tune in tomorrow. That’s right kids. This isn’t a myth or an urban legend. This is actual Batman history. Maybe some of you have even used this saying before and never realized what it was from. The vernacular is so much a part of what we say that we don’t even think about it. I’d liken it to the way people say hang up the phone and don’t realize that we used to have to actually hang up the phone.
- You want to read a Yearbook issue that actually nails the characters.
- You love Maps!
- You’re a fan of Christian Wildgoose. I’d never heard of him before, but his art was a real pleasant surprise.
- You want to read a Gotham Academy story that almost feels like a Gotham Academy story again.
This isn’t the greatest issue of Gotham Academy, but it’s definitely the best issue of the Yearbook story arc so far. While the art still ranges from great to merely acceptable, characters portrayals are handled almost perfectly. After the last two issues, I was almost certain that this was going to be the worst thing I read today. I’m elated to be able to give this book a good score again. Maybe this is a sign that things are getting back on track.
SCORE: 7.5 / 10