We’ve reached the final chapter of the Yearbook story arc, which is also the final issue of Gotham Academy. While the book is being picked up again in 4 months, consequently meaning this isn’t really the end, we still need to ask whether or not this was a worthwhile ending to the first volume of Gotham Academy. While it definitely doesn’t give us the answers I assumed would be forthcoming, it’s a lot more in line with what I was expecting to get out of the Yearbook story than those first two issues delivered. It has lots of great character moments, plenty of humor, numerous ties to previous stories, and raises plenty more questions that will need answering in the upcoming semester.
It seems to me that the book has come to terms with the fact that Maps is clearly the fan favorite. 4 of the 5 stories told within have her as the star player/key supporting role. While I’m still fully invested in finding out more about Olive, if the book is going to be deviating from that primary driving force, I’m happy to see that they realize that Maps-centric storytelling is the next best thing.
One of the other things that made this issue flow together better than the previous ones, was the fact that the interstitial sections were actually a story unto themselves. Throughout the previous installments in this arc, these small sections have typically been nothing more than bookends/introductions for the guest writers and artists. Now that they are actually being used to tell their own story, it doesn’t feel like we are losing 4 or 5 pages since they are actually highly relevant to the conclusion.
Many of the stories that have been presented during the Yearbook story arc have included callbacks within them that reference past events from previous Gotham Academy stories. This story about Professor Milo follows suit with that trend, but takes it to another level. Instead of just making offhanded references intended to remind you of other stories, this one actually takes you back to not one but several such events. And instead of being mere reminders of the past, they tell snippets of those stories again, but this time through the eyes of Professor Milo.
Not only does it serve as a nice recap of the run, but since it is written by Brenden Fletcher, I was paying extra close attention to the things he chose to highlight. Are these key moments indicative of the direction the book might take in the future? It definitely reinvigorated my interest in uncovering the secrets behind Gotham Academy and its connection with Arkham Asylum.
Unfortunately, my biggest comment regarding this story was that it was remotely difficult to read. Milo’s inner thoughts are displayed in cursive. In and of itself, that isn’t a problem. But as you can see, the cursive is also presented in a much thinner/smaller scale than the rest of the text. I don’t want to imply that reading it was impossible to do, but I actually had to TRY and read it as opposed to just reading it.
This was probably my favorite story in the book. Why? Come on people! It has the freaking Sterling Silversmith in it! I can’t begin to tell you how much I love the fact that Gotham Academy utilizes so many obscure characters from Batman history that haven’t been touched on in decades. I’m fully aware that other readers won’t be able to appreciate this in the same manner I did because I have a different level of background knowledge on Batman, but to that I say, “Read more comics!” And don’t use the excuse on me that the Silversmith stories were written before you were born. They were written before I was born too. So I repeat…”Read More Comics!”
Aside from the fact that I geeked out over seeing the Silversmith, this story has a lot of other things going for it as well. The art is clean and wonderful to look at, the dialogue is exceptionally well written and flows beautifully, the character portrayals are spot on, it’s funny, and I love the fact that Map’s primary motivation throughout is to craft a silver coated dagger to use against monsters. Two thumbs way up from me!
“Talent Show” is the longest story in the book and stars Maps and Pomeline. It involves the girls putting on a magic act for the school’s yearly talent show. It also serves up a healthy dose of Map’s brand of hi-jinks and delves further into the character of Pomeline Fritch.
Last month, I made the comment that it was nice to get a story that displayed Pomeline Fritch as slightly more than just a caricature. Oddly enough, we are already getting another story that focuses on more character building for Miss Fritch. It’s obviously just a coincidence that I asked for more character depth and ended up receiving it, but it kind of makes me wonder if someone out there is reading my stuff and actually taking my suggestions to heart. In all seriousness, this isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned something in a review and then seen it down the road.
The artistic choices that were made for this particular story definitely give it a stand out quality from the rest of the book. Many of the visuals are nothing more than vague forms, used to give us just enough information about what we are looking at to identify it and then allowing our minds to fill in the rest of the details. But it’s not just the minimalistic nature in the detailing that made the story stand out visually from the rest of the book. Alterici chose to use an incredibly limited color palette throughout. While the colors are somewhat pastel/faded, it actually has the opposite effect and really makes the pages pop.
While entertaining, in and of itself, this story also serves as a callback of sorts to my absolute favorite issue of Gotham Academy…#10.
Odds and Ends:
- This bit of dialogue struck me as slightly problematic. These kids attend a boarding school. That means they live at the school. Sure, you could explain it away by saying they were home for the weekend or that the talent show came up right after spring break or something. But it still struck me as odd since the primary dwelling place of these kids, in my mind, is the school and not their houses.
“Drivers Ed” is the smallest story in the book, coming in at a mere 2 pages. One might also say that it’s probably the most irrelevant inclusion to the bigger story as well. However, I found it to be the funniest of the bunch. Basically, Kyle gives Mia her first driving lesson in a golf cart decorated with a Bat-symbol decal. (Which gives me an excuse to finally share these pics of Bat-themed golf carts.)
While short in length, the story dishes out humor almost every other panel, so they take full advantage of the space to give you the most bang for your buck. With the number of jokes coming your way, you’re bound to find something to laugh at even if they don’t all end up tickling your funny bone.
Art-wise, I’d say it resembles the kind of visuals you’d get out of the Sunday Comics. You’re there to be amused, not gape in awe at the beauty of the renderings. While the art is simplistic in nature, it doesn’t limit the range of emotions the characters are able to convey. In truth, many of the jokes are driven home by Mia’s facial expressions. In summation, simple yet aptly impactful.
I found the very last page of the book to be a disappointment. Throughout all of this, I kept telling myself that this was all leading to something. That Robin was looking for clues to the secrets of Arkham Asylum and Gotham Academy within Maps’ scrapbook. But on the final page, there was no real resolution or reveal. If he did learn something, it definitely wasn’t shared with us. While it’s all played off as just some game that Robin was sharing with Maps, I can’t believe that. There simply has to be more to this than that ending. After the somewhat disappointing ending to issue #12 and this conclusion to the Yearbook story, I get the feeling that Gotham Academy is just stringing its readers along by keeping them in the dark. We keep coming back because we want answers, but they just keep withholding them. While that is fine to do for awhile, I think we are past that point by now. It’s time to start anteing up.
- Detective Comics #446. An accident at a museum reveals a skeleton hidden inside of a silver statue. When the skeleton is taken to the morgue, several men show up to steal it. Batman follows them to the Silversmith’s lair where he dismantles the operation, unfortunately Silversmith escapes in the process. Silversmith’s big plan was to stockpile silver and become rich when the Gold Standard collapsed. From the story, it doesn’t even seem like he had a plan to encourage that outcome. He just believed it was going to happen. Turns out that the skeleton in the statue was his brother, whom Silversmith decided he didn’t want to share the eventual profits with.
- Detective Comics #495. In this story, The Crime Doctor has discovered that Batman and Bruce Wayne are one and the same. To make a long story short, Silversmith captures The Crime Doctor and poisons him, offering to have his stomach pumped only if he reveals Batman’s secret identity. Just then, Batman burst in and incapacitates Silversmith and his goons. Rushing The Crime Doctor to the hospital, Batman arrives in time to save his life, but the poison has turned Crime Doctor into a mindless vegetable.
- You Love Maps!
- You wanna see an obscure Batman villain from the 1970s…Sterling Silversmith!
- You want to see how the first volume of Gotham Academy ends.
- Bat Golf Cart
- YOU LOVE MAPS!!!
While the Yearbook story arc has become increasing more enjoyable with each passing issue, I found the conclusion mildly disappointing. That’s not to say that the individual stories presented within this chapter weren’t entertaining, but the over-arching story that tied them all together since the beginning was nowhere near as relevant as I hoped it would be. If you’re fine with all of this having just been for fun, then you’ll be perfectly satisfied with the ending. But if you’re like me and were hoping for revelations, you’ll be sadly dissatisfied. While this might be the last issue of “Gotham Academy”…never fear! Answers may yet be forthcoming. When September rolls around, we are getting “Gotham Academy: Next Semester”. And for those of you that thought the magic was lost from the book after issue #12 and the departure of two of the series regulars…never fear again! Both Karl Kerschl and Becky Cloonan are slated to return alongside Brendan Fletcher when the story of Olive, Maps, and the rest of the gang continues later this year.
SCORE: 7.5 / 10