Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Gotham Academy: Second Semester #1 Review and **SPOILERS**

Bad Girls, Bad Girls, Whatchu Gonna Do?

Story By: Brenden Fletcher, Becky Cloonan & Karl Kerschl
Script By: Brenden Fletcher & Karl Kerschl
Pencils By: Adam Archer
Inks By: Sandra Hope
Background Paintings By: Msassyk
Colors By: Chris Sotomayor & Serge LaPointe
Breakdowns By: Rob Haynes
Cover Price: $2.99
On Sale Date: September 14, 2016


Hooray everyone! School’s back in session! When you get to be an old fart like me, that’s good news. Oh, I remember the sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach as we neared the first day of school after summer vacation, and the sense not that I’d wasted my time off, but that I hadn’t wasted it enough. Looking back, I have to say that I whiled away the hours doing nothing of importance with the ability of a Gladstone Gander or a Wimpy J. Wellington. Why, even the Little Tramp would have marveled at my skilled laziness. Nowadays, I have to do stuff every stupid day just to keep myself alive and under shelter. Clearly I should have been a prep school werewolf or skeleton ghost or something, they get to hang around and do nothing even while school is in session. Uh, except terrorize the pupils, that is. They still have to do that. I wonder if they’re still up to their old tricks in the pages of Gotham Academy: Second Semester? Why not read on and find out!

Explain It!

One thing that sucks about not having any parents is that you have to spend the holidays stuck at your expensive prep school eating soup with spinster teachers. So it is for Olive Silverlock, whose mom was a bonkers Firestarter-type lady, so now she has to spend Winter Break at Gotham Academy with Professor Macpherson. Wait…Winter Break? This is called Second Semester, isn’t it? Does that mean all the crazy shit we read about last year happened in one semester?! Holy cow, when did these kids ever go to class? Anyway, Olive is hanging out with Professor Macpherson, and admits how lonely she is. The Professor sympathizes, and then promises to come again and have dinner the next night—with fresh cranberries! So when she undoubtedly doesn’t show, Olive goes to her dorm room, where her new roommate Amy has eaten her sandwich. So that’s the person on the cover of this thing, not Maps! Whew, I thought Maps Mizoguchi had gone punk rock. Amy is a purple-haired, pushy kind of gal, someone who isn’t into rules or authority or not being in a persistent state of making everyone around her uncomfortable. She figures out Olive’s crush on Kyle by poking around her photographs which, to be frank, one doesn’t need to be a mind-reader to figure out. Wait, do kids still have physical photographs these days?

Amy gets Olive to give her the penny tour of the campus, in the dead of night in about four inches of snow. Amy says she’s originally from Iowa, and got kicked out of two schools before winding up in the home of the Batman. Then they smash one of Professor Macpherson’s windows and break into the Wedgwood Museum, a creepy old mansion at the school that is maintained as a museum. Fucking hell these kids come from rich families! Once inside, Amy slashes a painting of Thomas Wayne, which is not going to go over well with the cowled one. They come to a séance room, when the doors slam shut and Olive faints dead away and falls to the ground! When she comes to, Amy and this kid Eric are there—he was already in the museum hanging out, which is okay because he has a key. Further questioning reveals a secret passage through a sarcophagus stashed in the corner of the room, and up a staircase is found the Mark of Arkham! This was a thing wayyy early in Gotham Academy that, quite honestly, I’d forgotten about. We further learn that Wedgwood was the lady of the manor’s married name—she was, in fact, a Cobblepot! Whoa, this thing is folding in Gotham Continuity! Eric has been doing copious research, which Amy then steals and runs out of the room, locking Olive and an asthmatic Eric behind. What a flipping bitch.

Eric is gasping for air and unable to help Olive smash the door open, so she uses a bust of, presumably, Lord Wedgwood, and busts a hole right in the floor right into the Arkham symbol. Beneath it, there’s a tunnel, and Olive grabs Eric and hauls him down the tunnel in hopes of getting to the clinic before this kid dies on her. Come morning, they pop out of a porthole window in the museum and fall to the ground. They’re found by Mr. Scarlett, who has Eric’s asthma inhaler somehow and saves the day. He gives Olive the opportunity to rat out Amy, but she doesn’t because she’s a class act. And besides, the semester is about to start in earnest and all of her old friends in the Detective Club are back! I’m sure Amy won’t cause Olive or Maps or anyone else a smidge of trouble for the rest of the series!

So, I pretty much hate Amy, but I’m supposed to so I can’t fault the book for that. It was a pretty good issue, despite the dubious mansion museum, and I liked the use of a smaller cast that made the desperation of being trapped more palpable. The art looks fantastic, they’ve kept the same animation cel feel from when Karl Kerschl drew it, but the style has changed a little. I dig it a lot. For an issue that barely featured Maps in it, I thought it was a good read, and fans of the series will find themselves right in step with the new semester. Except for calculus. That’s going to kick your ass.

Bits and Pieces:

Folks that read and enjoyed the first semester will find a lot of payoff in the second semester, though the story is a little different than the madcap antics we're used to. New characters are introduced, new information is learned, and kids skulk around in the passageways between walls, which is what this book is all about. The art is fabulous, and retains the "painted animated cel" style of the previous volume. All that, and Professor Macpherson's fresh cranberries!

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