Gotham Academy (2014)
Writers: Becky Cloonan & Brenden Fletcher
Art: Karl Kerschl
Colors: Geyser, Dave McCaig, Msassyk, Serge LaPointe, & John Raush
Letters: Steve Wands
In this past year there have been a ton of Batman related titles put out that did an excellent job of opening up Gotham, my favorite of which has been Gotham Academy. This title details a historic and prestigious school in Gotham City. The reader soon discovers that although no one is making people laugh to death or using an umbrella as a gun, there is still a fair amount of crazy in the younger generation of Gothamites. The story centers around Olive Silverlock, a girl who is very secretive when it comes to her past and very curious when it comes to her present dwellings. Along with her good pal Maps Mizoguchi, Olive starts to discover secrets and answers regarding Gotham Academy.
The story opens and Olive is presented as a bit of a trouble maker and far less then popular. Immediately the reader gets introduced to the charming and youthful Maps, who appears to be Olive's only true friend, and is intent on discovering all of the secrets of the school and mapping out the vast campus. After introducing the main cast (which also includes Olive's ex, the class princess, the supportive teacher, and a couple other usual school characters) the story shifts into Olive and Maps first school exploration, an adventure that takes them to the creepy old chapel on the campus. This is the first of many travels on the school grounds. At this point each issue seems to shift into stand alone stories concentrating on one bizarre aspect of the school or the peculiar habits of some of the students. There are a few mysteries that continue throughout the issues that have come out so far, for example the rumor and clues that the school might be haunted, the curious case behind a diary that is found, and the secret behind Olive's past that involves Batman and who her mother was.
Speaking of Batman, he is not in this book at all (so far) which makes the story even more unique. Sure, there is a cameo by Bruce Wayne and the Bat Signal shines in the sky, but for the most part that's it. Cloonan and Fletcher's writing shows each student has a different reaction to the ominous light. Olive sees it and feels disdain while other students see the light and get frightened of who might be out there. On the subject of the students, the creative team does an exceptional job of making each character an individual, and building on their personalities in each panel. Everyone has a distinct voice and mind set, each of which holds true in every issue. With an endlessly mysterious school, fun and (mostly) innocent characters, and a $2.99 price tag, this book is hard not to try.
Not to mention the art! Kerschl strongly adds to the feeling of individualism throughout the the cast. Though most of the students wear some variation of the school uniform, Kerschl adds at least one personal touch that makes every character stick out in your mind, whether it's a hair clip, glasses, or hair style (all unique in themselves thanks to the great colorists). The school's architecture adds to it's whimsy and uniqueness with the insane amount of details in the bricks and wooden walls. The buildings seem regal, old fashioned and full of history, all without being so gothic that they detract from the lightness of the characters. All of the colorists of this book deserve a ton of recognition, as they make Kerschl's environments pop even more, especially during scenes at night, which can be exceedingly difficult. As much as Kerschl adds character using those characteristics I mentioned above, the colorists also offer unique characterization using eye colors, skin tones, and make up treatments.
This series has 3 issues out so far, with a fourth coming out on 1/21. The team has consistently impressed and I'm sure will continue to captive the other readers and I through this coming of age/character study as time goes on. It is somewhat rare for an all ages story to have enough heart, mystery, and character dynamic to catch the eye of multiple generations of comic fans, espeically one that can can build on the already vast Gotham City mythos in a way that makes sense, so kudos and thanks to the Gotham Academy team! As always, thanks for reading!