Gotham Academy: Second Semester #5 review

Gotham Academy SS 5

Last month’s Gotham Academy Second Semester #4 was an interlude in the larger story, hence, #5 picks up where our story left off two months ago…The Trial of Colton Rivera!

This story starts off with a flashback depicting exactly what Colton did that got him in such hot water with Headmaster Hammer.  When last we saw Colton, he was pillaging Silversmith’s shop in hopes of building something that would help the team with their witch hunt.  Silversmith unexpectedly shows up, and in fleeing from Silversmith, Colton finds a trap door that leads him to Bookworm’s office.

Let me get this straight.  You just came through a trap door that was 15 feet behind Bookworm.  A trap door that most likely creaked.  And even if it hadn’t, you start talking out loud!?!  Is Bookworm deaf or something?  Does he have no sense whatsoever of his surroundings?  Whatever…

In the office, Bookworm is going over some old map.  Suddenly, Bookworm gets called away, and Colton uses the opportunity to steal the map.  And while running away, yet again, Colton runs directly into Headmaster Hammer.  And wouldn’t you know it, the map is actually Hammer’s.  Now that we are all caught up, we can get to the meat of the story.

Colton is being escorted across campus by security guards to collect his things and clear out.  In the process, he crosses paths with Bookworm leading Professor Pio away.  Their exchange is really quite creepy when you think about it and rather unusual too.  We’ve been lead to believe that Pio was a villain, but why would a villain care for the well being of a student?  Is she just being crazy, or is there more to it than that?  While her methods were inadvisable, maybe she was merely fighting against a greater evil?  This seemingly inconsequential interaction really got me thinking.

As Colton continues his march across campus, he runs into the rest of the gang and they offer to take him to his room and help him pack up, under the guise of which I assumed would turn into an elaborate scheme to prove his innocence.  But that doesn’t happen.  In fact, I’m not really sure what they did with the allocated time.  I’ve always found the Detective Club to be a bunch of “doers”, so this seeming inactivity really struck me as odd.  From here on out the story is about Pomeline’s mother defending Colton at his hearing while Pomeline herself steals the map and makes a long awaited discovery.

Taking all that into account, there is definitely a sense of artificiality to it that I didn’t quite care for.  Colton finding a trap door just when he needs it, which just so happens leads to the map, and then he just so happens to bump right into Hammer who just so happens to be the maps original owner.  Then he conveniently runs into not only Pio and Bookworm on the way to his room but also the rest of the gang.  The whole first half of the book is essentially 6 major conveniences back to back.  It just feels forced and not very natural.

The trial itself ends up being only 2 pages long, which seems like a shame since it was the main selling point going into the story.  Even though it is short, it raises some interesting questions, but ultimately doesn’t bother to answer them (unless they get back to it next issue).  Instead of pressing the matter with Bookworm, it’s brushed aside in favor of moving things forward in other sections of the story, leaving the kids in the dark (and the reader as well) the way this book always does.

Umm…what are you talking about?

At this point in the story, we finally get back to something that’s been floating around out there forever…the Arkham Asylum symbols and there connection with Gotham Academy.  FINALLY!  Pom ends up stealing the map and brings it to Wedgwood to decipher it.  Long story short, moonlight reveals hidden markings on the map (hmm…someone’s been reading The Hobbit) and…cue cliffhanger!

Odds and Ends:

  • So, Bruce Wayne is on the Board of Directors at Gotham Academy, but it seemed odd to me that someone as busy as him would be called in to handle something as simple as an expulsion.  Given that dialogue was put in place to remind us that Bruce is sponsoring Olive at Gotham Academy, it may also be that he has an interest in Colton’s future as well.

Really Olive…

  • During the first run of this series, Hugo Strange was often seen helping Olive, but he turned out to be the main culprit behind all the evil doings that were going on.  Setting up Bookworm as another seemingly helpful but ultimately evil character seems to be a straight up rehash of what was already done.  If this does indeed turn out to be the case, it lacks originality.  Instead, it seems like more of an attempt to garner favor from the reader by repeating a formula that was already shown to work.  And that just seems lazy to me.
  • So, we have a 250 year old map that is so delicate that instead of displaying the original at the hearing and potentially damaging it, they instead show photos of it since it is so fragile.  But in the opening we see Colton running around with it outside while it is snowing and then it gets caught up in a gust of wind and snatched out of the air by Hammer.  Seems to me we have conflicting evidence to just how fragile this map actually is.

  • That old trailer of his in the middle of the woods???

Recommended if…

  • You’re a fan of Gotham Academy, despite its past slumps.
  • You’ve been patiently waiting for them to get back to the main narrative that was put in place forever ago.

Overall:

When this book first came out, I was giving it solid 9s week after week.  I took a moment today to look up exactly when that was.  Can you believe the last time I gave this book a standing ovation was all the way back in October of 2015!  Have I really been waiting for over a year now for this book to get back on track?!?  That’s a long time to give something the benefit of the doubt without it actually producing anything to support that level of commitment.  I guess it’s just a testament to how amazing those original stories were.  While this book still has a way to go to get back to its glory days, I’m starting to see a faint glimmer of what it used to be.  My review may seem to contradict it, but generally speaking, I was relatively pleased with this issue.  Primarily my problems with this story stem from the contrivances it delivers along with several instances where little attention is paid to the finer details.  That aside, the focus does indeed seem to be turning back towards the mystery of the school and the connection it has with Arkham Asylum, which should in turn shed some more light on Olive’s mother.  The book also has the characters acting like themselves and gives pretty much everyone something to do this time out.  With a more straightforward narrative that’s finally linking back to some original premises, I’m more hopeful now than I’ve been in awhile.

SCORE: 6.5 / 10 

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