Graduation Day for “Gotham Academy”

Damian Wayne and Maps from Gotham Academy
Gotham Academy Team-up: Robin and Maps
Images via DC Comics, Gotham Academy, Damian and Maps
Who’s the real hero of Gotham Academy? Maps, of course! Even Damian Wayne knows that. Images via DC Comics

This week, we say goodbye to one of the most inventive and unique books DC has put out in recent years, so Corrina and I have decided to pull out that review from our usual “DC This Week” column and give it a proper send-off. We speak, of course, of Gotham Academy, which ends its “Second Semester” series with #12.

Also, if the title is new to you? Have no fear. You can find it collected in these trades: Gotham Academy Volume 1: Welcome to Gotham Academy, Gotham Academy Volume 2: Calamity, Gotham Academy Volume 3: Yearbook, Gotham Academy: Second Semester: Volume 1: Welcome Back, and Gotham Academy: Second Semester: Volume 2: Ballad of Olive Silverlock, which is due out in December.

Gotham Academy: Overall Praise

Ray: In an era when comic book diversity is one of the hottest subjects around, few titles handled it better and more organically than this title, which featured a mostly non-white cast with LGBTQ representation, in a high-school setting that felt much more realistic than what we usually see with teen comics. And it did it all with a completely original cast (with the exception of occasional Robin drop-ins). It was a big risk from DC, and while it may not have paid off entirely in sales, it is definitely a huge feather in the cap of DC and its creative team from a creative perspective.

Corrina: It began with a terrific concept, with the children of Gotham’s high-class citizens attending a school that features the uniqueness that is Gotham. Though I’ve called it “Gotham’s Hogwarts,” it’s much more than that, drawing on the history, heroism and villainy of Gotham and how it affects the younger generation.

Except the series is much more fun that I’ve made that concept sound. Yes, there were serious problems, including murderous teachers and students and, of course, the mystery surrounding Olive’s firestarting ability. But it was clear from the first that the beating heart of the series was Olive’s roommate, the irrepressible Mia “Maps” Mizoguchi, the leader of the Detective Club and, as we’ll see below, the one who helps save Olive from her ancestor’s curse.

Colton, from Gotham Academy
Gotham Academy’s Colton and Kyle share a friendship hug, one of the many excellent LGBTQ moments in the series. Image via DC Comics

And then there was Colton, the school liar, the prankster, who had to find his way to trusting people. When he finally confessed that he had a crush on Kyle, Maps’s older brother, it was handled with a sweetness and understanding that Colton himself probably had something snarky to say about it later. The crush never affected their friendship, which continued, even if Kyle didn’t reciprocate Colton’s feelings. Colton and Kyle, of course, and fellow Detective Club member Pom have great moments in the finale as well.

I hope Gotham Academy has a long life in trade. As for Maps, well, she has a mask already, so here’s hoping she shows up again soon in Gotham, somewhere, without being drawn into the darkness that tends to ooze into everyone who resides in the city.

Gotham Academy: Second Semester #12 cover
The final issue. Hail and farewell. Image via DC Comics

Gotham Academy: Farewell

Gotham Academy: Second Semester #12 – Brenden Fletcher, Becky Cloonan, Karl Kerschl, Writers; Adam Archer, Penciller; Sandra Hope, Inker; Msassy, Colorist/Background Painting

Ray – 9.5/10

Corrina: D’aww…..I Just Love a Happy Ending

Ray: There’s a lot for Gotham Academy to wrap up in this final issue, as Olive Silverlock’s curse – in the form of her ancestor Amity – threatens to consume everything she loves, from her friends, to her sanity, to the very school she calls home. The evil Amanda, leader of the Terrible Trio, plans to force Olive into letting Amity consume her, no matter what it does to Olive. Maps, meanwhile, is determined to stop Olive, giving up hope for her friend after Kyle was injured protecting her. In a way, both have lost faith in Olive at the same time, a near-deadly combination. It’s genuinely painful to see Olive contemplate suicide after escaping the Trio, and Maps’ ill-chosen words come at the exact wrong moment. You strip away the supernatural elements briefly, and this is a tragic scene that happens every day.

Corrina: Olive and Maps’s friendship has been fraying for some time in this second semester but, still, this moment hit hard, especially since Olive’s survival by this point was not a foregone conclusion. It’s also an utterly realistic moment for teenagers, when they find out the person they care about sometimes can give up on them, if only for a moment. I felt so much for Olive and Maps.

Gotham Academy Detective Club
Gotham Academy’s Detective Club: Pom, Colton, Olive, Maps, and Kyle. Image via DC Comics

Ray: While Olive and Maps are the stars here, the other members of the cast get some great moments to shine as well. Pomeline and Colton, two members of the cast who were often to the side of the action, actually prove themselves to be the deciding factor as they solve the mystery and find a way to exorcize Amity for good. The final scene, as Maps tries to save Olive before she follows her mother’s fate – a fate that is revealed in flashback segments – is extremely powerful, and allows Maps to play the hero. If Damian ever steps away from the role, can we nominate her to be the new Robin? The ending, despite having so much to tie up in only one issue, sticks the landing perfectly. Olive finally gets her happy ending, some characters from the whole run of the series return, Colton finds someone who likes him the same way, and the adventure continues, even as the story ends for now.

Corrina: Colton, Kyle, and Pom being able to banish the demon that was once Amity is a terrific moment and, again, I had no idea if this issue would also see the loss of Olive Silverlock, despite being cured of her possession. The suspense added extra oomph to Maps’s heroic moments and, yes, she’d be a perfect Robin. Though she’s fun when teamed with Damian, the Robin she reminds me most of is Dick Grayson.

Ray: Gotham Academy may not have been a perfect fit for a resurgent DC line, at a time when DC has refocused on its a-list heroes to great effect. A title like this will always be a hard sell in the direct market, but I hope DC realizes what they have here. Just because it didn’t quite work sales-wise in singles doesn’t mean it’s not a gold mine. This would do amazingly well in bookstores and book fairs, both in collected editions of the original series and hopefully in direct-to-collection sequels. Not to mention, what a great cartoon series this would make! DC has their own streaming service coming up, with titles including Young Justice Season 3 and Titans. This would make a perfect addition, or a new show on the CW. It’s been one of the best books coming out of DC in recent years, and a title we definitely need right now.

Corrina: And I cannot leave without praising the art side of the creative team. The painted art gave these stories a distinctive and instantly recognizable look. If I ever see the characters and their environs in another art style, I suspect they just won’t look right. But here’s hoping we haven’t seen the last of them and, when we do see them again, they’ll still be the cast and setting that I came to adore.

 

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Reviewer, comic book writer, and the author of Alex Actonn, Son of Two Seas - novel available on Amazon now! DC superfan who is loving everything about Rebirth. Feels very strongly about Cassandra Cain, Stephanie Brown, and Young Justice. Can also be found on Graphic Policy doing sales analysis with Glenn Matchett, and on the Rabbitt Stew Podcast with Glenn and Brandon James.