Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Gotham Academy #16 Review and *SPOILERS*

If We Cannot Find the Perpetrator, We Will Have to Invent Him

Written By: Brenden Fletcher, James Tynion IV, Ken Niimura
Art By: Adam Archer, Sandra Hope, Christian Wildgoose, Serge Lapointe, Ken Niimura
Letters By: Steve Wands, Ken Niimura
Cover Price: $2.99
Release Date: March 9, 2016

*Non-Spoilers and Score At The Bottom*

Welcome to part three of Gotham Academy’s clip show bonanza arc, wherein we read short stories about the adventures of the academy gang, written and drawn by various creators. It’s been a cool ride so far—some highs, and some not-so-highs, and overall I’d say this has been a good experiment. I think a lot of titles could do with something like this—if not a five- or six-issue arc to fill a trade collection, then a single, oversized issue with a sampling of creators with a wide range of styles. You used to see more comics like this in the Long Ago: one-off issues depicting “a day in the life” of a character, or an issue depicting the occasional mundane reality of maintaining an alter ego. This issue contains the fewest stories of any issue yet, but one of them is done completely by Ken Niimura so you can just shut up and nod your head knowingly now. And then scan those eyes downward and read my review, so we might revel in our knowingness!

Explain It!:

When I rattled off the site’s copy for the preview for this issue earlier in the week, I gushed about Maps Mizoguchi, and how I could read a whole comic book about her. Well, clearly the Gotham Academy team read my mind, because this whole issue is primarily about Maps! Oh, how I love that bubbly little rapscallion. Mind you, anyone as enthusiastic and needy as Maps in real life is someone I would jump into a live volcano to avoid. But that’s why we read comic books, people: to indulge in a fantasy world where we are as virtuous as the protagonists within. So we open up with Damien Wayne opening up the window to Maps’ and Olive’s dorm room, then discovering her scrap book and sitting down to read it. The first story depicts Maps having concocted a plan to meet the Batman and become his sidekick, which includes some great drawings that really should have been printed full page, or at least there should be a link to see just Maps’ drawings online, hint hint. She’s at the all-night coffee shop with Colton, who is part of this plan: he walks into the GCPD and sets off a bunch of smoke bombs as a distraction while Maps hot-foots it up to the roof and turns on the Bat Signal. While waiting for the Dark Knight to arrive, Maps falls asleep, and wakes up in her own bed—to find that Batman has signed her awesome pictures! Come on, he gets to look at them but we don’t?!

We return to Maps’ and Olive’s dorm room: Pomeline busts in to find Damien poring through Maps’ scrap book (it really should be called a Maps Book in my opinion). He gets all pissy and takes off through the window—while stealing the scrap book! Something about that struck me as so hilarious. Olive appears and asks how she can help segue to the next and last story, which is the one by Ken Niimura. Artist for I Kill Giants and everything-doer for Henshin, along with Manga works too numerous to name, Mr. Niimura understands the language of comics so fundamentally that his work is deceptively simple. That’s what happens when you get really proficient at something, your works of art can be boiled down to what works, instead of a lot of ancillary bluster and pontificating. For instance, you can tell I am a hack writer because I use a lot of superlatives and random asides to obfuscate my lack of acumen. So this last story is about a boring Sunday at Gotham Academy, and no one wants to play with Maps so she goes to the library of all godforsaken places. There, she gets the idea to take a stroll in the woods, when she stumbles on a box sticking out of the ground labeled “time capsule!”

She takes it back to Olive—it’s filled with some old candies, a map, and a letter sealed with wax, so you know it’s super old! The letter is from 1779, the first year Gotham Academy opened, and it’s by someone who uncovered a dire conspiracy or monster or maybe some kind of ghost monster in the secret tunnels beneath the school. They hid some sort of evidence at the Student Pavillion—a building that no longer exists but seems to be marked by some chunks of stone. The gang is assembled and they’re all given assignments to prepare for an excavation that evening, but Olive goes back to her dorm room because she forgot her bag. There, she finds Maps forging an olde style letter, clearly to be buried at the site! Olive is furious as first, but eventually feels bad for her best friend and agrees to help forge a document, which we know is just a gateway favor to helping someone hide a body.
It's okay to cry at this point. I hope.

I sort of sped through a lot of this review, because I think you should go read this book! Both stories were very cute, the art is great throughout, but…Ken Niimura! No disrespect is meant to the other creators, but getting him to do this story was a real triumph. And he did such a great job characterizing everybody, I wouldn’t mind if he was the regular artist on this book one bit. I also wouldn’t mind another set of hands and arms, but that doesn’t seem likely, either. I’m enjoying this Yearbook story line, I think it will make a great trade. I just wish comics weren’t written for the danged trade all the time, but that’s not Brenden Fletcher’s problem. If anything, this style of anthology comic works best for a collected edition.
"I'll keep this with my Playboy collection."

Bits and Pieces

A couple of cute stories, and also: Damien Wayne! Do you think he likes Maps? I mean, does he “like” like Maps? Because I think Maps “like” likes him! Oooooh Maps has a boyyyyfrieeend! Ken Niimura does the second story in this book, and it is going to melt your cold, unfeeling heart. If it doesn’t then you are probably clinically dead. Everyone did a good job for this issue, but Niimura really stole the show.

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