Off the Shelf — Gotham Academy Volume 1: Welcome to Gotham Academy

Gotham Academy 1 coverNutshell: Gorgeous art and a fresh YA spin give Welcome to Gotham Academy a new take on a well-worn mythology. Though a little too dependent on manga tropes to be truly original, with tie-ins to other series in the Batman universe and characters who haven’t yet decided if they’re good or evil, this looks like the start of a fun ride. Grade: A-

Story: Olive Silverlock’s second year at Gotham Academy is starting off with a bang.  Or rather with a rattle of ghostly chains, which she’s determined to get to the bottom of.  Then there’s Batman, who scares her witless…what did happen last summer, anyway?

Best Lines:
“Every stone has a story…but not every story has a happy ending.”
“That wasn’t me at all. I’ve changed…and I don’t like the person I’m becoming.”
“It’s jut the Bat-Signal.  Same old thing as every other night.”

Goodies: Variant cover gallery.

Thoughts: Gotham Academy is the newest entry into the Gotham mythos; a look at YA characters in a YA setting doing YA things.  Oh, and having to deal with everything that happens as a consequence of living in a city where Batman deals with supervillains.  If you’ve got a younger sibling/cousin/friend/neighbor who’s looking to dive into the DC universe now that things are hot, this is a great place for that kid to start.  Older YA fans, and Batman aficionados will also want to take a peek, as Welcome to Gotham Academy (which I’ll call Gotham Academy for the rest of this review, as I’m lazy) teases connections to the larger mythos, and the crossover possibilities are endless.

Tons of Easter Eggs and shout-outs to other series, like the Draculords and Black Canary’s band Ashes on Sunday from Batgirl of Burnside. And of course Olive’s mother Sybil, who Arkham Manor folks will recognize.  And psst; the last page of Volume 1 promises plenty of shakeups.  I’ll just leave that for you to ponder.

Gotham Academy is VERY manga in it’s look, feel and  characterizations. There’s also comparisons to be made to Harry Potter, Detective Comics and even old Scooby-Doo and Batman: The Animated Series eps.  (BTW, Gotham Academy has the best school lunch program. Ever.)

Speaking of Scooby-Doo, the bad guys are definitely cartoonish.  Possibly to keep things light?  In fact, monstrous Killer Croc is actually kinda adorable, and that ties in nicely to the change he’s going through in Batman’s New 52 titles.  Can we expect the same kind of characterization in the Suicide Squad film?  I kinda hope so, as I’m liking the “misunderstood guy that’s done wrong and now just wants to be left alone” vibe.

Anyway, lightness isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I’m used to the dark, angular baddies from other Bat properties.  It’ll just take me a bit of getting used to.  And the main characters have names that make me giggle a bit: Olive’s frenemy Pomeline Fritch.  Pom Fritch?  *giggles* And the mysterious student Tristan Grey.  Seriously?  We’re doing 50 Shades knockoffs? Though his character does sorta bring Christian Grey back to his roots, as Tristan has this weird virus…

The editing here is a bit iffy at times; abrupt page cuts make going from scene to scene jarring at times.  But I kept getting sucked back in thanks to Karl Kerschl’s gorgeous art.  And the story by Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher is fun, but has an undercurrent of menace that keeps it firmly in Gotham territory. There’s tons of Gotham history, and we get to dig into the pasts of the Cobblepot family, so I’m betting future arcs will have a look at other notorious folks.  Can’t wait.

Series like this one and the New 52 Batgirl are perfect for younger readers who “don’t like” or aren’t ready for the darker stuff.  A perfect gateway drug, if you will.  Before you know it, they’ll be all over Harley Quinn, Batman, Inc. and then hello Divergence!

Gotham Academy is a perfect beach read for folks who want a bit of fun in the summer sun.  Get back to the darkness in a post-Endgame Gotham after the sun sets.  The bats are out at night, anyway.

Publication 411:  Collects Gotham Academy #1-6. Hits shelves June 23, 2015.

Subscribe or Shelve: If you’re into a YA spin with your Gotham, give this a go.  Dark Knight seekers may decide to give this a pass though, beautiful art and all.  But they’ll be missing a look into the innerworkings of Gotham, and that’d be a shame.

 

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