It isn’t without reason that one of DC’s newest books, Gotham Academy, has found such success among the glut of superhero comics everywhere. A story set in Gotham that focuses on kids in a school environment with some inbuilt horror and thrills, Gotham Academy has quickly become one of my favourite comics to read every month. The writing on this is excellent, and so is the art. Plus I just adore the characters, and the whole mystery with what happened to the protagonist over the summer, something related to Batman no less, well, that’s a great hook too, I think.
In Gotham Academy #4 from last week, we see more of what is happening at the boarding school. With all the (light) supernatural things going on, it has been a pretty rough time for Olive and we are finally beginning to get some answers about the whole thing, not to mention that we are slightly closer to understanding what happened to the protagonist over the summer. More mysteries, more thrills, some answers, more questions, there’s a hell of a lot here to unpack and the new issue was just as good as the previous issues, if not better.
There’s a certain naivete here about the characters that I really like. They are all basically school-kids, and that imparts a certain innocence on the whole affair, but when they dabble in supernatural magics that they can’t quite comprehend or understand, that’s when we start running into a problem, and that’s kind of what writers Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher seem to be going for.
And then there’s the whole thing with all the different mysteries that seem to have found a home at Gotham Academy. Such as what happened to Olive in the summer and why she hates Batman so much and how she knows Bruce Wayne and so on and on. Then there’s the whole thing with Millie Jane’s ghost, which was quite phenomenal in the last issue and was done really well here too, especially when we learned the truth about the ghost. That was an exciting moment certainly!
But the thing is that at its heart, this issue is as much about exploring the character relationships and dynamics than anything else. Sure, the mysteries and the meta-story give the series a direction, but more than anything, it is the characters who really bring out the best in it, and the way that they are all written in this issue, well, you can’t help but like all of them. Even Pomeline, who was introduced as a stuck-up jerk at first, but who has grown beyond that since and has become decent friends with Olive now.
However, I think it is Olive’s friend Maps who is the real star of this issue, as she has been in the past. Younger sister to Olive’s erstwhile boyfriend, she is a really vivacious character, someone who is all caught up in the mystery of Gotham Academy and finds as much fun in it as Nancy Drew did in her early adventures, or the Secret Seven in theirs or the Famous Five did. I really like her character. She breaks off the horror monotony every now and then, and proves to be a great source of humour as well.
Bruce Wayne gets to make an appearance here as well, and I liked his brief cameo. For a series set in Gotham and with a protagonist who has a history of some sort with the character, Bruce/Batman have been little used so far, and I like it that way. Keeps the story focused on the kids and their own problems without bringing in the heavyweights in any way.
Karl Kerschl is the artist here with Msassyk and Serge LaPointe on colours and Steve Wands on the art with the cover by Karl and Dave McCaig. When looking at the art, you can’t help but be impressed and amazed by the colours. So many different shades and palettes, making this book an absolute riot of colours, but also restrained so as it doesn’t get overwhelming. And the series definitely doesn’t wallow in the general oppressive darkness of Gotham, so that’s a huge plus. Plus, the linework and the inks are also close to being perfect, with the composition of the final two pages being absolutely awesome. Loved that big twist.
The mysteries deepen but we are also closer to finding out the truths!