Gotham Academy #1 Review

By: Rob Neil Gruszecki

Each year at Gotham Academy first years are assigned a ‘nanny’ to help them acclimate to their new environment on campus and Maps Mizoguchi has been assigned Olive Silverlock as hers. Previously acquainted through a preexisting, possibly in limbo, relationship between Olive and Kyle, Maps’ older brother, the two girls start the school year off with an explorative adventure of the grounds and some of the more mysterious landmarks around them. Instantly endearing, the students of Gotham Academy embark on a tale that is exciting and an absolute joy to read.

From Becky Cloonan (American Virgin), Brenden Fletcher (Batgirl) and Karl Kerschl (Teen Titans: Year One) comes a New 52 series that is light, whimsical, exciting, original and all-ages. A comic that is more mischievous than brooding or dark and more fun than most titles being produced at DC these days, Gotham Academy throws two fully fleshed out characters in the centre of a looming tower in the heart of Gotham and lets the mystery, drama and action expand from there.

Not having to hang the story so reliantly on the automatic appeal of a Batman appearance, this first issue instead keeps the continuity at arms reach and more as a backdrop for the real story to take place over top of. The Batverse is more peripheral and adds tone to the overall comic but ultimately what Gotham Academy excels at is developing lore, characters and interest independently. In fact, removing the aspects of Gotham and its universe entirely leaves you with a blast of an adventure comic that stands quite confidently on its own legs. That’s not to say that the addition of the DCU and its world is superfluous, merely to point out the adept work that has been achieved in this first issue as a solid introduction to new faces and new stories.

The feel and look of Gotham Academy is a beautiful style and a direction that I am thrilled to see taken in this perpetually miserable and dank climate that the New 52 has established. Karl Kerschl manages to take the dreary landscape of a Gotham institute and keep its creepy, old, regal aesthetics all the while reinventing it with a more eccentric feel rather than a frightening twisted, asylum way that you would expect in a Gotham set series. The feel inside the academy is much more Hogwarts than it is a Tim Burtonesque eerie spawn.

The enjoyment I got out of Gotham Academy reminded me of the early issues of Runaways with its ability to embrace the fun and wonder in comics instead of tragically keeping itself in the dark with grim negativity. There’s lots to get out of this first installment here. Vibrantly enthralling characters, excellently balanced creative collaboration and a compelling cliffhanger in the final panels are only a few of the many reasons to pick up Gotham Academy.

Rob Neil Gruszecki is a writer, musician and Wednesday warrior

Follow him on Twitter @Ghost_Factory

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