In the immortal words of the Gotham Academy kids:
Did I just read the best issue of Second Semester ever written? Yes, yes I did. I’d even go so far as to say it’s the best issue of Gotham Academy I’ve read in a year and a half. But it goes beyond that. Upon finishing this story, I actually went back and reread all the previous issues of Second Semester. Why is that? Well, let’s just say something happens that’s going to make you want to reexamine those back-issues. In the process, I also discovered that this story actually makes every preceding issue of Second Semester better, and in turn, those stories make this issue better too. In fact, if you take my recommendation and end up reading this story, but not the previous ones, you’re omitting an integral part of what made this particular issue so amazing.
Ok. Ok. What’s so great about it?
Well, I’d really like to tell you, but anything I say is just going to ruin it for you if you haven’t already read the story. Even so, I want to talk about what happened and don’t really want to have to tiptoe around the twist. So, I’m just going to throw up some spoiler warnings and leave it up to your judgement whether you want to proceed or not.
Last chance. Are you sure you want to do this?
Not familiar with that name? What if I told you he is a character in the movie “Fight Club”? Still not ringing any bells? Ok then, I’ll just lay it on you. Olive’s roommate…Amy…she isn’t real. It’s all been a figment of Olive’s imagination. Every time Amy has interacted with someone, it’s actually been Olive. When you see Amy talking to people. That’s been Olive too. That’s not to say that every line of dialogue Amy has ever uttered has been out loud. Some of Amy’s dialogue has been solely confined to Olive’s head, for instance:
This is an excerpt from issue 3. Had that been said out loud by Olive, it would have had elicited a much different response from the group. As it stands, Pomeline’s response indicates she didn’t hear Amy at all.
There’s also this scene from issue 5 where Amy uses Olive’s name. These lines area clearly in Olive’s head as Maps was present for this conversation and I’m pretty sure Maps would have said something if Olive started talking to herself in the third person. Not to mention the fact that Amy basically makes fun of Maps during this scene. If Olive had been making fun of Maps, I’m sure things would have played out differently. Going back through, it’s funny to see just how much of what Amy said was completely incidental. Most of what Amy does is just drop snarky comments here and there. Given the nature of what she was usually saying, it was easy to assume that the gang was just ignoring her instead of justifying her opinion with a response, when really, they simply didn’t hear her at all. If you choose to go back through the story, it’s pretty clear when Amy is openly acting out through Olive and when it’s just inside Olive’s head. In some ways, Amy is kind of like the internal monologue we all have. There are plenty of times I’ve interacted with people, but instead of saying what I really wanted to say, I went with a more civil/diplomatic approach.
As the story unfolds, it’s revealed that Amy is actually the spirit of Amity Arkham, one of Olive’s ancient relatives. But I have to wonder, has there genuinely been a spirit present that Olive has been interacting with, or is Amy/Amity simply a hallucination of her mind. If it’s a genuine spirit, then all the things Amy/Olive has been doing aren’t really Olive’s fault, as it’s been a case of possession. But if it isn’t a spirit, then Olive has been doing and thinking these things. Sure, they aren’t “really” her fault as it would be a case of dissociative identity disorder. But Harvey Dent still gets shipped off to Arkham every time Two-Face acts up.
Personally, I hope it’s all in her head and not really a spirit. One of the things that Gotham Academy has always done well is make you think one thing is going on and then reveal that it’s actually something else. In the past, they’ve made you think there are monsters, but then they give you an alternate explanation. They make you think there are ghosts and spirits, but then show you that there really aren’t. Sure, they are usually comic book answers that are extravagant unto themselves and wouldn’t really be able to happen either, but Gotham Academy typically steers clear of genuine supernatural involvement.
As much as I am hoping for them to go the coocoo route, I’m guessing they’ll go with possessing spirit. That way Olive is completely not responsible. If they went with it all being her, it raises several problems. The biggest problem being, if she really is the one doing all this, you have to arrest her. And it’s not like they are going to get rid of the star of the book. Another problem would be acknowledging that it was all her, and not arresting her or sending her to Arkham. Like I said above, it’s no different than the situation with Harvey and Two-Face. Forgiving Olive the actions of her alternate personality would be in poor form, if you ask me. Granted, we’ll have to wait and see what they do, but a genuine spirit would circumvent both these issues.
I’d actually like to take a moment to acknowledge another thing about Amy. In previous issues, there were times when the character would show up out of nowhere. Or be with the group, then vanish, only to show up again later with no explanation as to how she arrived or why she had been absent to begin with. At the time, I thought this was an oversight on the part of the creative team. That it was a genuine error. Little did I realize that it had all been carefully and painstakingly planned out. And that what I was seeing was exactly what they wanted me to see. So yes. I’d like to take this moment to apologize to the creative team for any finger-wagging I may have done in conjunction with elements I perceived as wrong. My bad. You guys rock.
Anyway, since I’ve gone and made this entire review a giant spoiler, I may as well continue. OLIVE PUSHES ERIC TO HIS DEATH!!!!!
At least that’s what the comic wants you to think. Don’t worry, Tristan got free of his bonds and catches Eric on his way back up. But for a minute there, things were grim. The looks on everyone’s faces and the way they all reacted…it was great. So often in comics people get killed, and it’s like, “Whatever, on with the action!” But here. They actually took the time to acknowledge a normal person getting killed by another normal person. It’s not like, “Yay, Olive got the bad guy!” It’s like, “Oh my God, what did you just do!” Treating it in this way was absolutely the right thing to do. And it really helped to remind me that, even though we are in a superhero’s world, these are just ordinary people. (Well, maybe not Olive.)
I also really liked how they inundated us with past scenes that involved Amy, but took the time to show us how it was actually Olive. It totally reminded me of movies like “Fight Club” or “The Sixth Sense”. When the twist is finally revealed, and the realization dawns on the character, you get to see a montage of scenes that show you what was really happening. I think this was my favorite:
But really, the best part of this flashback is what they didn’t even bother to include. In issue #1, Amy steals Eric’s inhaler and runs off with it. Then Olive tries to save Eric. But really, it was Olive all along. Imagine this from Eric’s perspective. Olive basically tortures him and then all of a sudden gets concerned and tries to save him. No wonder Eric freaks out when he sees Olive coming for him. He must see her as completely insane.
I think I’ve gone on for long enough, so I’ll just end this by saying that the dorm room confrontation between Olive and Amy was creepy as hell. Can’t wait to read the next issue!
Odds and Ends:
- I wonder why they made such a production of showing us that Maps’ hair flower fell into her backpack?
- “Lord of the Rings” references. Man, I love Maps!
- I’m guessing I don’t need to point this one out, but yeah, that’s Mister Freeze’s real name.
- Is it just me, or does anyone else think this looks like a scene from “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”?
- You like mind-blowing twists.
Ok people. If you’re one of the individuals who was reading Gotham Academy and gave up on it, you need to get back in here right now…or at least pick this up in trade. It just went from mediocre to insanely good. And in actuality, this issue made every preceding issue of Second Semester better. If you want details, check out the review in its entirety. But be warned, it’s spoiler-ific. So if you want to get the full effect and be surprised, you need to read issue #1-7. Other than that, all I can say is, “Oh…My…Crap!”
SCORE: 9.5 / 10