The end has finally come…but it’s bittersweet. Over the last three years, Gotham Academy has been one of the few books at DC that’s been consistently entertaining. That’s not to say that the title was above fallibility (I’m looking at you Yearbook), but even when it made missteps, they were never so major that I couldn’t still find something worthwhile to latch onto and enjoy.
On a personal note, Gotham Academy is the only series I’ve ever read that my wife was also interested in reading. So, with this comic’s departure, I’ve not only lost a wonderful addition to my roster of reading material but also the only vehicle through which I was able to share my hobby with my wife.
If I had to use one word to describe this story, it would probably be “happy”. Not necessarily that it brings me a sense of personal happiness, but that happiness permeates the story itself. Happiness, love, and friendship are all very much front and center for Gotham Academy’s farewell issue, but it left me questioning how true to the book this really was. While friendship has always been a major theme within these stories, it’s always been just peaking out from under a layer of somberness. I’ve always gravitated more to the melancholic aspect of the book. So, to see it take a backseat of sorts in exchange for a more or less feel-good ending left me slightly less than fulfilled.
If we go with the notion that the narrative of Gotham Academy has always been about Olive (which, admittedly, it has), then it makes sense to do this. All of this was about her trials, and now that they are over, we should see her in a happier place. But I think it might have been more interesting if we only thought we were looking a the story of Olive Silverlock, while in reality, we were really watching the genesis of Maps Mizoguchi.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to imply that things could have gone this way. When the series started, there was no doubt that Olive was the main character, and Maps seemed little more than comic relief. But as things progressed, Maps became more and more central to the story, adopting much more of a co-starring aspect than one of sidekick. One could even argue that her story and personality began to overshadow that of Olive’s. With this in my mind, I find it unfortunate that the ending is so “perfect”.
I’ll use a Star Wars anecdote to further explain my thought process. I’m not sure if it’s common knowledge or not, but Harrison Ford thought that Han Solo should have died in Return of the Jedi. He thought the death of the character would have added additional gravitas and meaning to the story (Incidentally, he got his wish 32 years later in The Force Awakens, but that’s a discussion for another time). There’s even evidence that Lando Calrissian wasn’t originally supposed to survive his escape from the second Death Star explosion. But at the end of the day, George Lucas decided that he wanted to bypass these elements in order to leave the audience with a more complete sense of joy and contentment.
It seems a strange thing to bring this up, because really, it acts as support for the creative team’s decision to keep “everything coming up roses”. After all, if it worked for Return of the Jedi, why not Gotham Academy? But it does make me wonder why an attempt to make a bolder more definitive statement wasn’t taken.
In case I’m not being clear enough, I think the death of Olive could have been something that would have really left a lasting impression on readers. Now, I’m not suggesting that this should have been the outcome to the story that the team was telling. Far from it. Doing that would have been antithetical to what they were attempting to achieve within the narrative they crafted. And if that had been the ending, not only would it have been a crazy downer to end the series on, but it would have been devastating to Maps without giving us a conclusion to the outcome of such an event. But, for the next person that might eventually pick this up, it would be a wonderful catalyst for which to launch future stories off of.
I’m was also probably more open to a potential Olive death because she is the least interesting character to me. Everything compelling about her isn’t really about her so much as it is about her past and the mystery surrounding her. Take all that away, and she is kind of bland. In comparison, all the other characters had vibrant personalities that were infectious and easily quantified. Maps was the quirky exuberant one, Pomeline was the snarky one, Kyle was “Lawful Good”, and Colton…while he initially seemed to be nothing more than the cool kid, was hiding immense insecurity behind a false facade. Like I said, everyone else had personality, but who was Olive? I guess you could say she was the wistful one. But throughout the course of the story, I never felt that I really go to know who she was a s a person. At least not to the degree that I got to know the rest of the cast.
Since I found her to be expendable, I thought, why not use that expendability to springboard the story into more compelling waters. But that’s assuming someone would eventually pick things back up. But since we don’t know if that will ever happen or not, it would be insanely frustrating for readers to be presented with a situation without potential for resolution. So, I see why they didn’t go in that direction.
Having said that, it does seem like they are hopeful that someone will continue their work. Aside from the resolution of the Olive plot, everything does return to a status quo of sorts. Albeit a status quo that is slightly happier than the ones we started with 3 years ago, but still, far too similar to say that we’ve experienced any major progression.
And that’s another thing that’s disappointing. The status quo of many of these characters leaves them in a state of perpetual limbo. Aside from the Olive plot, nobody else gets a resolution. We have dozens of “B”, “C”, and “D” plots that weren’t (and may very well never be) given a definitive conclusion to. It’s basically what I was saying up above; it’s undesirable to have been presented with situations that we don’t get resolutions for. Granted, it’s not really the fault of the creative team that their book was cancelled, but they could have put forth additional effort to give us more closure. As it stands, far too many threads were left completely loose and dangling in the wind.
I’m not unaware of the fact that it may be incredibly selfish of me to spend so much time discussing what it could have been. After all, you came here to find out how it actually was. You came for my judgement on it for what it is of its own merit and not what it could have been. But in this instance, I think my explaining what I was wishing for is a good indication of what it isn’t. And, in turn, why I didn’t necessarily like it that much.
The final thing I’d like to say is, if I don’t see Maps Mizoguchi integrated into the main continuity as a recurring character I’m going to be perturbed beyond belief. I look back over the last 6 years and I see how many characters DC has introduced into the Batman mythos that the majority of readers don’t care about and don’t really even want to read about. And it makes me wonder, why do they get their own books while a character everyone genuinely likes may end up being relegated to obscurity?
I guess there’s no point in me being coy about it. I’m talking about Duke Thomas and Harper Row. The latter basically took over what should have been a tribute to Dick Grayson, and the former is basically a slap in the face to all Robins. There was also an overt attempt made in their stories to encourage us to like Duke and Harper without really allowing us to make that determination on our own. We were told that they were special and amazing characters we should like without being given reasons to like them. They also made them both out to be something more special than they really were. I’ve always gotten the impression from the creative teams responsible for them that where they were going with the characters was preordained regardless of the reception from the audience. That the story wasn’t being intuitively crafted, but planned out way in advance. That it wasn’t organic, but systematic.
So, this is what I am talking about. Maps earned our love, but despite that, she is banished. Meanwhile, we have to endure characters based on writer’s whim, even if those characters don’t deserve to be around.
- You want to know how things end…kind of…
The ultimate finale to Gotham Academy is uncharacteristically chipper. And while ultimately serviceable, I think it takes the safe route. Add to that the fact that multiple storylines are left completely unresolved in exchange to solely concentrate on the Silverlock conclusion, and I ended up feeling very unfulfilled. Despite my displeasure with this finale, I do still think that this is a wonderful series in general and definitely worth your time. If you missed it, Batman-News did a retrospective on the series early this week that you can find here: Saying good-bye to “Gotham Academy” Give it a once over. You might find that Gotham Academy is one of the best things you haven’t been reading.
SCORE: 6.5 / 10