Gotham Academy #1
Writers: Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher
Artist: Karl Kerschl
Colours: Geyser and Dave McCaig
The Batverse expands with two new characters: Maps Mizoguchi and Olive Silverlock.
Olive Silverlock is returning for her second year at the prestigious private school Gotham Academy. Maps Mizoguchi is in her first year, and the Headmaster assigns Olive to be her mentor while she acclimates to the campus.
This story moves immediately into many of the standard school story cliches. The new girl. The mean girl. The grumpy Headmaster. The boy. The thing that happened last year. Oh, and is the school haunted?
Olive starts off quiet and withdrawn due to “the thing that happened last year,” but by the end of the book has shaken off that funk and decided to take charge of her life.
Maps is an unabashed nerd, rocking a D20 t-shirt and boundless enthusiasm for everything. Is the school haunted? Let’s investigate! Never been to the bell tower? Let’s go!
The story is standard, but gives enough hooks to complete a first arc and maybe a second.
Where this books shines, though, is in the art. Kerschl’s pencils and layouts are excellent, and the colours bring everything together. They set a dark – yet not depressing – mood that permeates every page, but which is offset by Maps’ enthusiasm. The school is so well defined it’s more like its own character, rather than just a background building where events happen. Background details like cracks, posters and pillars make the scenes. Most impressive – and I don’t know who is responsible – is the plaid of the school skirts. It’s like they scanned a fabric swatch. The skirts change shape based on the character’s activity, but this swatch of plaid they use is always perfect. It really draws the eye.
There’s a slight Buffy/Scooby Doo feel, ending with an appearance by Bruce Wayne (who recognizes Olive), but it’s enjoyable. I’m not sure of the target audience for this book, but i think it would definitely be appropriate for an audience of 11 or 12 and up. It’s enjoyable enough for adults and does a good enough job on some of the ‘first day of school’ angst to appeal to younger readers as well. DC has said they’re working to expand young and female and young female readership so I hope they give this a good shot to succeed. That said, this has the feel of something that, if after the first arc the numbers aren’t what they want, it will get cancelled. That would be unfortunate as I’m already enjoying Maps Mizoguchi.
In summary, if you’re a die-hard Batverse person, well, this book is in Gotham and is expanding that setting, so check it out. If you’re not a die-hard Batverse person, this is a pretty standard teen adventure story and, in just one issue, the Batvibe is pretty light. If you’re a parent looking for something for your kids or wondering about what they’ve brought home, this is a solid, clean read.