Time is short for our dear Detective Club members, both literally and figuratively. In reality, there are only two issues after this one before the series is over. It will be a bittersweet farewell for the students of Gotham Academy for sure, but after the events of this issue there may not even be a Detective Club to send off.
Two primary threads run through this issue: Olive’s confrontation with Two-Face and the Penguin, and Maps trying to join a brand new, exclusive group at the Academy. Honestly, either one of these stories could have been an issue unto themselves, and because of that this installment feels a bit rushed. It’s still an awful lot of fun, though, and it has some of the best work Adam Archer has done on this book to date.
Maps, being Maps, discovers that there might be a secret society on campus and does what she can to try and join their ranks. This leads her to run afoul of a trio who behave… terribly.
A terrible… trio.
Honestly, when I saw the cover, I was kind of dreading reading this. The Terrible Trio aren’t exactly the most exciting of villains, after all. The concept is decent, if a little too cute and on the nose: three guys dress up in fancy suits and wear animal masks corresponding to the types of crimes they like to commit. Shark dude commits crimes by sea, for instance, fox by land, and vulture by air. Kind of interesting, but not exactly memorable. They were even updated in the Animated Series to be a group of bored, rich jerks whose dads were the heads of different types of industries, which was at least a little more interesting. I mean, I think we can all relate to wanting to see a bunch of smug jerkwads getting what’s coming to them right? Still, it’s one of the lesser episodes of the cartoon, simply because the trio just aren’t that interesting.
Pretty much all of that is thrown out the window here, though, as the trio are recast as a group of students who want to protect the secrets of Amity Arkham. Again, Maps being Maps, she is almost inadvertently a step ahead of the trio’s schemes and walks away from their confrontation relatively unscathed. Having the trio be a group that guards the secrets of the school is a decent enough idea, but as I said, there really isn’t much done with it. Maps finds them, joins up, gets led into a possible trap, discovers their intent through a bit of typical monologuing, and escapes in a short amount of time. Much as I like Maps and her quirky, gung-ho nature, there just isn’t any tension here.
Oh, and the bird one is a raven instead of a vulture now. For… what that’s worth.
While Maps’ story serves a purpose without much consequence, it’s Olive’s confrontation with Two-Face and Penguin that carries the most weight. It’s pretty intense seeing Olive try to suppress the “Calamity” side of her personality, and Dent plays her against Cobblepot pretty ruthlessly. Oswald doesn’t really help matters either, though, as he attacks the teenage girl a few times so as to not be harmed by the spirit he believes inhabits her.
Side note: If “gun-brella” doesn’t fetch Fletcher, Clooney and Kerschl an Eisner I don’t even know what things are anymore.
The scenes between the three are often tense, occasionally beautiful, and frequently uncomfortable. I liked how Two-Face and Penguin played up their individual weaknesses, with Harvey relying too much on the duality of certain situations and Cobblepot being a sleazebag under his pretensions of class. In between these two titans of Gotham crime is a little girl, endowed with power she doesn’t want and a rage she can’t control. Fletcher isn’t exactly subtle with her plight, but it’s effective because we really care about Olive. You kind of want her to let loose just so she can escape from the villains who are manipulating her, even if that means losing herself to a tarnished legacy she’s inherited.
It’s only when Kyle shows up to save Olive that things get a little too melodramatic, tipping into a soap operatic territory the series is usually pretty good at avoiding. Kyle makes a proclamation that should resonate, but it kind of falls flat. Because of that the ending to the issue doesn’t quite feel earned, coming across as a contrivance rather than natural plot progression. I still like these kids and feel for them in their struggles, but too many things fell flat here.
Ultimately, though, it’s all designed to lead to the finale. At times it feels like filler, but it’s entertaining filler just the same. It’s quite a lovely issue, too. I know the color schemes and designs have been polarizing on this book, but I like it. It gives this sequestered little part of Gotham its own character and feel, and the use of different colors to indicating different environments is effective. Archer does quite a bit with his simple, streamlined style, too, crafting some gripping action scenes. He knows how to depict movement really well, either with “speed lines” or basic panel sequencing.
Gotham Academy: Second Semester has rediscovered its groove in recent months, especially after a shaky first few issues. This is a minor dip in quality that might not hit every note it’s going for, but it’s a solid enough entry that I enjoyed reading. If you like hanging with the kids at the Academy, you will too.
- You’re in this for the long haul.
- You like when old villains get fresh interpretations.
Overall: As Gotham Academy: Second Semester winds down, the creators have the thankless task of trying to set pieces up for the finale. As such, issues like this one end up feeling like they’re one part of a larger whole. There’s nothing here that’s inherently bad, either, it just feels incomplete. With Gotham Academy you know exactly what you’re getting, and this issue is no different. That isn’t a bad thing, I just wish it was better.