In the darkness of Gotham City, one man (and anywhere between 1-4 kids at a time) is tasked with protecting the citizens who fear him. But within the pristine walls of Gotham Academy, a new team of detectives has formed.
Gotham Academy Volume One: Welcome to Gotham Academy, by the incredible talents of Becky Cloonan and Brendan Fletcher, was an instant hit when it released. Amidst the gritty, bloody, hardcore world of DC superheroes, this fun yet mysterious look at a private school detective agency is fantastic for new comic book readers, young adult fans, teens, and anyone interested in the expansive universe that exists within Gotham.
Featuring a diverse cast and two young female leads, Gotham Academy is a step forward for DC, opening up the world that the comic book powerhouse has created to readers who might not line up with the conventional superhero story. The protagonist, Olive Silverlock, went through what seems to be a traumatic experience over the course of the previous summer, leaving her with a weird case of amnesia and a strange fear of bats. This prompts her bubbly new classmate (and the younger sister of her sort-of-boyfriend, Kyle), Maps Mizoguchi to launch a full-on investigation — dragging the irritable and strangely stand-offish Olive along with her.
This title is also great for fans of the Gotham television show, where the Penguin constantly takes center stage with incredible performances by Robin Lord Taylor. The penguin himself is not present, but there’s something dark in the Cobblepot family tree, and it has dropped itself directly into Olive’s lap. This spells trouble for Olive soon enough, which doesn’t help when she’s in the middle (well, the start) of a break-up with someone she still cares for deeply.
Without giving away any spoilers, this book stood out from the crowd for me because of its fearlessness when it came to being different from the beloved, standard DC fare. In a time where comics seem to be undergoing a massive expansion to reach a wider audience, titles like Gotham Academy that focus on human emotion, suspense, and drama are a unique and positive turning point. Gotham Academy doesn’t diminish the traditional superhero; in fact, this first volume seems to compliment the dark hero of Gotham by giving him a connection to our characters, but not too much of a prominent role.
Make no mistake: Olive and Maps are the heroines of this comic.
In fact, the girls’ contrasting personalities seem to sum up the comic extremely well; Maps’ bubbly, outgoing and curious demeanor directly contrasts Olive’s originally hesitant, irritable reactions. The very same can be said for how the fun, airy, slice-of-life high school drama is balanced by a looming darkness that only Olive can resolve.
The book totters with a bit of a slow start, and because the reader is just as unaware of what happened to Olive as she is, it can get a little confusing at first. But readers who stick with it will be rewarded with a genuine, rich Young Adult mystery, where a new kind of Scooby Gang begins the trial-and-error process of their fledgling, inexperienced detective work. The story takes off after a while and stays that way; it is absolutely worth the full read.
Volume One, “Welcome to Gotham Academy,” collects issues 1-6 of the comic series in to one shiny new paperback. With gorgeous art by Karl Kerschl, an incredible, unique cast, and a wonderful balance of giggles VS. creepy suspense, Gotham Academy is a great read for anyone who needs a break from the grit of other titles, or really, any Bat-fan. Get it on June 23rd at your local comic shop or Amazon.com.
DISCLAIMER: I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.