Written by: Becky Cloonan & Brenden Fletcher
Art by: Karl Kerschl
I don’t know how it happened, but four issues in and Gotham Academy is without a doubt my favourite book being published by DC. Somehow a series largely centred on the problems of a teenage girl at boarding school has become one of the best comics on the shelf. I don’t want to question why it happened, I’m just glad it did.
This issue moves the overarching mysteries of the series regarding the ghost of Millie Jane, the mysterious symbols and the doomsday cult (okay maybe there is a little more going on than teenage girl problems) but really the main development of the issue for me was the growth of Olive as a character and her relationship with those around her. Olive came off in the first issue as being quite cold and isolated but she’s now learning to trust those around her and is making some nice connections, particularly with Maps (my favourite character, how can you not love her enthusiastic geekiness?). I admit to being a sucker for these kind of stories, of the misfit learning to get along with others and make friends, so I’m glad that’s it’s done really well in here. There’s so much personality put into the characters from both a writing and design standpoint that it’s really nice to see them interact, their development being what makes me love the series so much.
Surprisingly, I’m not too big a fan of the supernatural and gothic elements of the series. Don’t get me wrong, they’re done really well and I’m sure it’s what draws many people to the series, but I’d personally prefer a much more grounded take on the series (ironically given how much I love weird, supernatural comics). I got a much bigger thrill out of seeing Olive potentially getting a crush on a new boy (but she’s still going out, sort of, with Kyle!!) than her and maps being attacked by a ghost. Maybe I’m just weird that way, but I’d be a lot happier if the focus was mainly on developing Olive and the other characters than solving mysteries. Like I say, it’s still done well, but personally I’m not as big a fan of it than the other side of the story.
What I do love though it the outstanding art of Karl Kerschl. His art is jaw-droppingly gorgeous and unlike anything else in a DC comic. It’s very Disney-esque at times, something I never thought I’d comment on about a Batman book, and is full of life. Like I said, a lot of the characters’ personalities come through thanks to their unique designs, with no two characters looking the same, but he also breaths a lot of life and character into the school and the book itself. Every environment looks absolutely beautiful, even the creepy, gothic areas. Each has a distinct look and feel, making Gotha Academy one of the most visually interesting locations in the DCU. Special credit most go to colourists Msassyk and Serge LaPointe who help each area stand out through the use of their bold colour scheme. It truly is one of the best art teams in comics, keeping an amazing level of consistency issue to issue. I’m also pretty sure there’s a Futurama reference in Map’s painting so the art gets some bonus points just for that.
I could go on about how much I love this book, as I really don’t think I’ve captured just how excited each new release makes me, but we’d be here all day and I’d like to wrap up for the week. Just let it be known that that is an incredible book that feels fresh, unique to most books out there, and something that DC sorely needed to publish. It’s lovely to see something like this given how much DC seems focused on grim and gritty versions of their character that book bursting with charm, energy and loveable characters is their best and most consistent book. Make sure to check this out and spread the world to all your friends to check out Gotham Academy.