Written by Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher
Art by Karl Kerschl and Mingue Helen Chen
Colours by Msassyk and Serge Lapointe and Mingue Helen Chen
Letters by Steve Wands
Published by DC Comics
It’s the last issue of Gotham Academy’s first arc and man, does this story end with a bang (literally and figuratively)! Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, Karl Kerschl (with sixth issue guest artist Mingue Helen Chen) are an incredible team and in only six issues they’ve created a world and a cast of characters so intriguing and charming, you just can’t help but fall in love with it.
When we left of last month, Olive and her band of friends were on the hunt for the Killer Croc and just when they caught up with him, Batman decided it was time to crash the party. In any other Batman comic where he battles it out with Killer Croc, readers would obviously root for Bats because the story usually comes from his perspective but that isn’t the case here. Nobody is relieved to see Batman come in to save the day and it’s a great throwback to see this kind of reaction. To the ordinary citizen, Batman is a scary figure. To Olive, Batman is the monster that tore her family apart. Olive and crew feel safer with Croc than with Batman and in the midst of all this chaos, we get a very different heroic moment. That’s what makes this comic book series feel so fresh. It’s a familiar world with familiar characters but the new setting and perspective really adds another layer of depth. Gotham feels like a fuller world and despite it being an all-ages book, Gotham Academy presents the fight between good and evil with all kinds of grey in between.
Also embedded with this moral ambiguity is a very real look at youth and friendship. It’s in high school and college/university where we discover true friendship. Olive’s journey isn’t just about finding herself after a life-changing incident; it’s about finding friends you never expected to find. It’s about losing friends who just don’t understand how you’ve changed. It’s about discovering those really special people in your life who will be your friend no matter what. Olive discovers all this throughout this first arc and I’m really loving her interactions with her peers. (Especially Maps!)
When I saw that Karl Kerschl wasn’t the only artist doing interiors for this issue, I was a little worried. I’ve never been the biggest fan of interior artist changeups mid-issue but it really works here for some of the scene changes. I was most worried about the panel work during these scene changes because I was so used to Kerschl’s dynamic and creative panel layouts. Chen’s flashback scenes have a more traditional spread but towards the end, it reaches a level of dynamic style and movement that nearly matched Kerschel’s own layouts. Chen’s art is very fanciful and animated (with her background in animation, it comes to no surprise) and it suits the flashback pages. Her panel beats in these flashbacks, while taking on a more traditional panel layout, find great affecting movements through intimate and emotion-based close-ups. The softer palettes and lines on Chen’s pages remind me of Paul Tobin and Coleen Coover’s Bandette. Kerschl and Chen’s styles are pretty different but the art still retains the unique tone that could only belong to Gotham Academy. I’m looking forward to seeing Chen take on a whole issue by herself, which if I’m not mistaken will be in June with #7.
Verdict: BUY. Gotham Academy has been and continues to be one of the best all-ages titles on the shelves right now. Although the first arc is over, Gotham Academy is really only beginning and now that we’re long passed the introductions, I’m really excited to see where the series will go from here.