Reviews

Comic Review – Gotham Academy #11

  • Writers: Becky Cloonan & Brenden Fletcher
  • Art: Karl Kerschl with MSASSYK and Mingjue Helen Chen
  • Colors: Serge LaPointe & MSASSYK
  • Letters: Marilyn Patrizio
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Release Date: October 21, 2015

Last month, Gotham Academy #10 got downright Shakespearean when the search for the mysterious Calamity saw Olive Silverlock, Maps Mizoguchi, and the rest of the Gotham Academy gang of intrepid teen detectives placed right in the middle of Macbeth and Clayface’s vendetta against the school’s drama teacher Simon Trent.

This month in Gotham Academy #11, the gang heads off campus to Gotham City proper in search for the truth about Olive’s mother and the connection with the costumed villain Calamity. Oh yeah, and there’s a guest appearance by Red Robin (Tim Drake) because cameos by the Batfamily are always welcome!

Gotham Academy 11 - Cover by Becky Cloonan
Gotham Academy #11 Cover by Becky Cloonan

As far as plans go, Olive’s plan to head to Gotham in order to learn more about her mother isn’t a terrible one. Sure, the plan involves ditching a nighttime school field trip and breaking into City Hall as well as the law office where their friend Pomeline’s mother works, but in Gotham City, this is practically a rite of passage.

Let’s face it, it’s probably impossible to consider yourself a real Gothamite without having broken into a government building or two.

What could possibly go wrong?

Well… aside from everything?

After the kids split up, the book focuses on Maps and Olive going through City Hall’s Records Room. While Olive goes inside to check out what she can find about her mother, Maps plays lookout in the hall where Red Robin catches her and she decides to show off her skills.

Does she actually impress Red Robin?

Not really.

But we get a nod to We Are Robin and a little griping about how “Everybody is wearing the ‘R'” that makes you wonder if we’re going to get a bit of a crossover between the two books because Maps would be such a good Robin. Their banter is cute but it also comes at a fantastic time because it breaks up the tension in the rest of the book.

This issue is a bit heavy when it comes right down to it because Olive essentially comes face to face with the fact that Calamity is synonymous with the Silverlock name. More Silverlocks than Olive can count have taken up the Calamity name before being jailed, institutionalized, or worse.

So there’s this worry on Olive’s part that she’s predestined to follow in their footsteps that really meshes with what people with family histories of chronic disease or mental health issues can experience. The fear of becoming like her ancestors who aren’t dealing well with their abilities or their mental health issues is one that shows up in this issue and will probably become a reoccurring theme in the series.

That’s part of what makes Gotham Academy such a good book, it’s light on the surface because it reads like it’s for the Scooby-Doo set, but then something like Olive’s fear of following in her family’s footsteps pops up to parallel lived experiences and it just takes the book to another level.

The art is also (obviously) a high point in this series!

Karl Kerschl draws some of the best facial expressions out there and his style lends well to our cast of teenage characters and the wide range of emotions that Cloonan and Fletcher put them through. Kerschl also wins major points this month for drawing what might be the actual cutest Red Robin in this issue. His Red Robin still feels like a kid rather than a tiny Batman Jr. and we get some great panels of him and Maps where they’re both in action. (And seriously, it’s the second best Gotham Academy team-up right after Maps & Damian in issue seven.)

This month we also get Mingjue Helen Chen (who worked on issue seven back in June) doing several pages in a flashback to Dick Grayson’s run-in with Olive’s mother back when she was threatening the city as Calamity.

Gotham Academy 11 - The Gang

Talk about art that just makes you feel happy when you see it. And that’s no small feat considering that the flashback isn’t exactly about anything that should cause that reaction. Mingjue Helen Cho takes us back in time to the original Dynamic Duo and draws Dick in action with such life in her style that you just want more of it.

With every issue that we get, it feels as if Gotham Academy is only getting better and better.

Eleven issues in and for every question answered, about fifty more pop up. We’re quickly approaching a major confrontation between Olive and Calamity after Maps’ older brother (and Olive’s ex-boyfriend) Kyle Mizoguchi goes missing. With the only clue leading to Arkham Asylum and a plot that’s set to revolve around mothers and daughters, we can guess that next month’s issue won’t end well for Olive.

Gotham Academy is generally a very light, very fun series but there’s this underlying dark note to it that keeps it from being a book that’s easily written off. Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher really have the hang of writing a realistic teen-focused series that also does double duty as a sprawling mystery. Everything in Gotham Academy #11 from to Maps’ conversation with Red Robin, to the unexpected ending really makes their work on the series click.


 

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About the author

Zina Hutton

writes about comics, nerd history, and ridiculous romance novels when not working frantically on her first collection of short stories.

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