Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Gotham Academy Annual #1 Review and **SPOILERS**

Maps Mizoguchi Beyond

Written By: Brenden Fletcher and Becky Cloonan
Penciled By: Adam Archer, Msassyk, Michael Dialynas & Chris Wildgoose
Inked By: Sandra Hope, Msassyk, Michael Dialynas & Chris Wildgoose
Colored By: Serge LaPointe, Massy & Michael Dialynas
Plotted By: Rob Haynes
Lettered By: Steve Wands
Cover Price: $4.99
On Sale Date: August 31, 2016


Everyone knows the perfect song for the last day of school is Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out For Summer.” But there isn’t really an equivalent for the first day of school, and consurn it, there should be! The only one that comes to mind is Nervous Norvis’ 1956 hit “Dig,” which, besides containing the lyrics, “D-I-G means sharp, D-I-G means knowledge, D-I-G means brains, D-I-G means college, D-I-G means you know the score, so dig, dig, dig, dig some more,” the entire song is essentially a thesaurus’ worth of words with similar meanings (and that can all be expressed using the slang “dig.”) But there really should be something harder, something using that overdrive pedal on the guitar that really plays to the joy many parents feel now that their kids won’t be stinking up the house all day for a little while. And think how the parents of the students at Gotham Academy feel! They don’t have to see their little jerks but once or twice a year. I’d say we’re due for our…Annual…look at the little tykes, why don’t you read on and we can see what the scamps are up to?

Explain It!

It was a dark and stormy night, when a bolt of lightning hit the chapel bell tower at Gotham Academy. In the flash, Maps spies a guy wearing a cape bounding away from the chapel, which in Gotham is probably a fairly regular occurrence. The Detective Club are surveying the damage that night, when Olive faints and collapses to the ground! She is therefore not in attendance the next morning, when Professor MacPherson and the gym teacher have assembled volunteers to clear the chapel bell tower rubble, and only the Detective Club has shown up. Minus Olive, as I mentioned. Colton notes that there’s a lot of sick people in the dorms…a suspicious number of infirm teachers and students, in fact. And Pomeline knows the reason: vampires have infected the campus! She says this must have been the caped fellow Maps saw leaping from the bell tower, because she saw bite marks on Jen Thompson’s neck, and plus all the garlic is missing from the kitchen and she saw a guy carrying what looked like a coffin a few nights ago. Case closed! But wait, Colton has his own theory: visiting lecturer Derek Powers! His thing is that Powers has been acting weird, and while lecturing on chemo-biology he is poisoning the student body! For some reason. Admittedly this seems less plausible than vampires, and I can’t believe I’m saying that. Their differences in opinion cause a schism within the Detective Club, and they decide to split up and pursue their own theories: Pomeline and Tristan (the semi-Man-Bat dude, remember) go to the campus cemetery to investigate vampires, and Colton and Kyle (Maps’ older brother that has a crush on Olive, remember) go to break into Derek Powers’ office—despite Maps’ pleas to stick together! And of course, nothing in terms of rubble will be cleared away today.

Kyle and Colton are able to break into Powers office with ease, since Colton is a petty criminal and all. They see the personal file of Warren McGinnis, a kid Colton has been bossing around and who he sent to shadow Pomeline and Tristan. While wondering why Powers has this confidential file in his office, Kyle hears a heartbeat coming from beneath the floorboards, so they make like Edgar Allen Poe and pry some floorboards up with a crowbar Colton brought. Or always has on him. Whatever you think is more likely. Before they can get to the beating of that hideous heart, Derek Powers walks in and is rightfully pissed off. As Kyle and Colton hotfoot it out of his office, we see some glowing crackle coursing up his jawline. And now I think it is worth it to reveal that Derek Powers is, indeed, Blight from the future of Batman Beyond, and he has come back to our time to kill Terry McGinnis’ father, Warren. Hey, it says **SPOILERS** in the title, for crying out loud! The kids don’t know this yet, of course, but anyone who watched Batman Beyond will know what’s up.

Meanwhile, at the cemetery, Pomeline is acting like a real dick to Tristan, who is taking it all in stride and masking his pain with sarcasm. She wants him to sniff out some vampires, but he only sniffs out Warren McGinnis, doing reconnaissance for Colton! Tristan only partially Man-Bats out and grabs Warren, who them scrams when Pom tells him to leave. Soon after, the two hear a piercing shriek, and trace it to Warren, whose neck bears the puncture wounds of the vampire! And he also exhibits vampirism, another clue! At the administrative building on campus, Kyle and Colton are at it again, this time with the help of Maps who has taken them to the room below Powers’ office. They pull away the ceiling and Colton gets splattered with viscous blood, but when Maps pokes her head into the ceiling, she finds a grandfather clock—with a heartbeat! While they make off with the clock, Derek Powers pulls away the floorboards and peers through the ceiling at them—and he’s now a radioactive skeleton!

At the cemetery, Vampire Warren tries to attack Pomeline, but Tristan extends his wings and clobbers the crap out of him. Man-Bat Tristan distracts Warren for a while, until Pomeline pulls out some standard anti-vampire weaponry: a vial of holy water. This she smashes on Warren’s face and takes off into the woods, only to be confronted by DC Universe vampire, Gustav Decobra! At just that moment, Kyle, Colton and Maps are converging on the cemetery, and feeling they have put enough distance between themselves and Derek Powers, Maps cracks open the familiar-looking clock to find…a heart connected to the clock by tubes? Ew. Just then, Derek shows up and tries to terrorize Maps, who falls into the clock in a flash of green light! Just outside the cemetery, Gustav Decobra is confronting Tristan and Pomeline, and just before he can pounce on Pom she pulls out some garlic! Nooo! Vampires hate Mediterranean food! Having distracted him Pom plunges a wooden stake into Gustav’s heart—but it has no effect. He made himself invulnerable to any attack years ago, when he stuffed his heart into a clock. Say, you don’t think…? Yes, it’s exactly the case, and this is when Colton and Kyle go running by, holding the clock. The Detective Club is gonna get back together! Minus Olive.

Derek Powers is in hot pursuit of the lads, but just as he’s upon them, he spies Warren McGinnis, the kid he came back in time to kill so that he will never sire his nemesis, Terry McGinnis! He grabs the poor kid and tries to irradiate him, but Warren vamps out and robs Powers of his kill! Stupid immortality! Just then, Pomeline, having been flown overhead by Tristan, drops from the sky onto Derek Powers and Warren, knocking them both out. Gustav shows up to get the grandfather clock that houses his heart, but then Powers shoots awake and tells him to get away from that clock, because it’s his time machine! Can’t we compromise here, fellas? Maybe Gustav can use his heart on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays, then Derek can use the clock on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays to time travel? No? A fight to the death, then? Okay. While they tussle, Maps steps out of the clock! She’s been hanging out in Powers’ time having amazing, yet untold adventures. Now, however, Maps has figured out Powers’ plan to kill Warren so there will be no Terry McGinnis, and it’s up to the Detective Club to thwart it!

Acting as a unit once again, they use Vampire Warren to bait Derek Powers. Colton literally says, “Don’t forget about Warren!” aloud like he’s in a Bugs Bunny cartoon, and it works! He gives chase, while Kyle keeps Gustav at bay with a crucifix. I must say, it’s pretty great how this vampire is affected by all traditional implements, I’m sick of these modern vamps with their sparkling bodies and ability to eat garlic pizza. The final move is pulled with precision, with several members acting in concert to trick Derek into stumbling back into the clock and his own future time, while Pomeline shoots an arrow at the clock face, piercing Gustav’s heart and, well, killing him. Hooray! It’s the dawn of a new day! Olive is feeling much better, having gotten over the flu, radiation poisoning, or vampirism—or some combination of the three—and they all live happily ever after. Until class in the morning, that is!

Here’s a pretty clever story where two independent adventures inadvertently combine to create something pretty satisfying. I like to see these little dopes getting along, and when everyone works together it is pretty dynamic. I think it’s interesting that, for once, Gotham Academy isn’t the Olive and Maps Show, instead we get a little more familiar with the supporting cast and see them in action. The “main story” art is very much like Kerschl’s time on the book, with individual panels looking like animated cels on painted backgrounds. The other artists do a fine job, some better than others, and because there are two stories happening simultaneously the changes in style aren’t too jarring. Good issue that gets me excited for the Next Semester!

Bits and Pieces:

Here's a solid, entertaining story, rich in Gotham lore of the past...and future! Instead of centering on Olive and Maps as usual, this issue focuses instead on the secondary cast of the book, and to good effect. Various artists contribute a wide range of styles to this issue, and the way the tale is structured allows for it. A great showing from the old Gotham Academy writing team that bodes well for the new issues coming in September!

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