Saying good-bye to “Gotham Academy”

Gotham Academy is the little series that could.

The story of Olive Silverlock, Mia “Maps” Mizoguchi, and the other members of the titular academy’s “Detective Club” has been Gotham’s shining light ever since it was first announced.  Now, with tomorrow’s release of Gotham Academy: Second Semester’s final issuethe kids are saying goodbye.

To give you an idea how long we’ve had Gotham Academy: the initial series announcement ran a scant nine days after Elena, Brandon, Josh, and I posted our first reviews on Batman News.  In a way, and at the risk of sounding overly-sentimental, it’s almost like losing friends.  We at Batman News have long been champions of the series, both in good times and bad, even going so far as to name it one of the best series of the New 52.

Like writer Becky Cloonan said when the series was first announced, Gotham Academy is “a story about kids living in Gotham under the shadow of the bat.”  It’s a small, focused look on a side of Gotham that hasn’t ever been explored before, and it makes the world feel that much bigger.  Batman is a presence, but this isn’t a Batman book.  No, this is a book about Olive, Maps, Kyle, Colton, and Pomeline.  It’s a book about Tristan and Headmaster Hammer.  It’s a book where the Bookworm can be the school librarian and you don’t think twice about it.  Gotham Academy is a book that reveres Batman so much that he doesn’t even need to show up that often.  From cameos and references to various other Easter eggs spread throughout each issue, this book was an unexpected love letter to the Batman mythos.

But it all comes back to the kids.  Sweet Olive, effervescent Maps, stalwart Kyle, sarcastic Pomeline, and charming Colton.  No matter how many Endgames or Robin Wars or multiverse-spanning crises they encountered, the kids still made it through just fine.  Their friendship, teamwork, and love for each other proved time and again that they could get themselves out of any jam.

That is, until the future was in doubt.  For a time it looked like the story was going to end, and no amount of charm and wit could pull the series out of cancellation.  The story of Olive Silverlock and her companions was going to conclude without any certain resolution, with the “Yearbook” arc of “clip show” issues looking like it would be the end.

And yet, when all seemed lost…

This is for you, Clark.

…a second semester was announced.  The book pulled through and would get one final run, not to mention an intercompany crossover.

With Olive’s past catching up with her as she tries to outrun her fate, the history of the Academy and its place in Gotham is slowly being revealed, leading poor Miss Silverlock down a path that she doesn’t want to tread.  In the end, though, the core theme of the book is still intact: friendship.  It’s that throughline that weaves every plot thread together, centering every conflict and resolution on Olive’s friendship with the Club, and Maps in particular.

Over these three years, Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, and Karl Kerschl have steered the ship of Gotham Academy.  It’s their evident love of the source material and willingness to dig deep for their references that made this series such a treat for Batman fans.  I mean, where else are you going to see Aunt Harriet as a headmistress and Simon Trent as the drama teacher?

Their writing managed to depict teenagers in a way that was believable without straying too far into cliche.  There was drama, of course, and everyone fit their role comfortably, but even the “unlikable” kids had their charms.  It was a cast where everyone served a purpose, no matter how small, which made the Academy feel alive.

And then there was the atmosphere, largely thanks to Karl Kerschl’s gorgeous artwork.  While he did end up leaving the title as an artist before the first semester concluded, it was his work that truly set the aesthetic for the series.  The school almost changed depending on the moods of the students, feeling like a boring old academic hall when nothing was happening only to turn to a place of dread and intrigue come nightfall.  Brandon pointed out that panel above as an image that stuck out to him, and it’s easy to see why: the colors, the composition, the perspective, everything about it is just beautiful… even for a swamp.  Especially for a swamp.  There have been some great artists who have filled in since he left, but it’s Kerschl’s work that’s first to come to mind when you think “Gotham Academy.”

And that’s what we love about the series.  It felt like its own book while still being rooted firmly in Gotham City.  It had its own identity that allowed it to stand on its own while still standing beside other books.  If you thought it wouldn’t stand a chance alongside other Batman titles, it proved that it could.  And in the spirit of proof, here are some of the issues and scenes we like most in the series.

Our Favorite Moments

  • Isla Macpherson, a teacher who genuinely cares about the kids. -Batman News writer Josh McDonald

  • Pretty much the entirety of Gotham Academy #10, where the kids are rehearsing for Macbeth.  Maps, Olive and Pomeline basically do all of the opening part of act 4 scene 1 within the story.  Then Simon Trent and Clayface square off in some kind of crazy rap battle, but instead of laying down sick beats, they blast back and forth at each other with eloquent stanzas. -Batman News writer Brandon Mulholand

I mean, tell me that didn’t pump you up/get you misty, even just a little bit.

I think the best thing that can be said about the series comes from Brandon: “I pulled out all my issues this morning and flipped through them, so I am also having a ton of fun going down memory lane. I got them out just so I could find and scan that image of Kyle and Olive on the docks, but ended up flipping through them all.”  Truth be told, the same thing happened to me.  Hopefully you guys felt the same, looking back on this charming little series that packed a punch.  Let us know what your favorite characters, moments, and issues of the books were, and join us as we say goodbye.

Until next semester: so long, Detective Club.