Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Gotham Academy #18 Review and **SPOILERS**

Are You Ready For the Summer?

Written By: Brenden Fletcher, Steve Orlando, Natasha Alterici, Faith Erin Hicks
Art By: Adam Archer, Sandra Hope, Moritat, Serge LaPointe, Minkyu Jung, Natasha Alterici, Faith Erin Hicks
Letters By: Steve Wands
Cover Price: $2.99
On Sale Date: May 11, 2016


I can still remember the end of every school year being something magical. As days got longer and the weather warmed, children’s brains would delete all stored files and Empty Trash in anticipation of two-plus months of doing as little as possible. For me, possibly as a by-product of being in the New York City public school system, it was time for me to say goodbye to the bulk of my classmates. We all likely lived within a couple of miles of each other, but without the daily reinforcement of forced proximity, no one intended on venturing outside of their known neighborhood to visit another. I wonder if that’s still true today, in the smart phone/Internet age. Back in the long ago, I had a phone number and a home address, both of which were actually owned by my parents, and if you didn’t know either of them then there was no way to contact me. Now, kids are linked up through various social media platforms twenty-four hours a day, so I suppose even if they don’t see each other throughout summer vacation, they can still follow each other’s Instagram accounts. I can’t help but wonder how this shapes the expectations and obligations of summer vacation for school children today; I was pressured by wine cooler commercials and ribald teenage movies, to maximize my summers with as much “partying” as possible, I would have been beside myself with envy to learn that one of my peers was having way more fun. There’s one group of kids who are always having way more fun than anyone, the students of Gotham Academy. They’re always having adventures and hanging out with monsters and ghosts, it’s like a regular Beetlejuice school over there. And now we come to the close of the first matriculated year of this title’s existence, with the finale of the anthology clip show arc titled “Yearbook.” Does it finish strong with a long, wistful autograph on the blank pages at the back, or is it the comic book equivalent of “I hope you have a pleasant summer”? Read my review and find out!

Explain It!

I’ve spent so much time making a goof about how this arc is Gotham Academy’s “clip show,” I neglected to notice that the connecting story had become somewhat…cute. I don’t know if it could be called compelling, but it beats the heck out of Olive and Maps sitting on an upended barrel, trading tales while the room slowly fills with water. So unless you’re one of those mavericks who only purchase the last issue of comics, you should be aware that Olive and Maps have been chasing Damien “Robin” Wayne around campus, in an effort to retrieve Maps’ Scrap Book that is full of only the most awesome and terrific charts and drawings by Maps. Robin seems to be making this rather easy, however, since he sort of darts past the girls and leads them around campus when, you know, he could probably just ninja himself out of there with little effort. Thinking about the sensitive materials in the scrapbook, we come to our first tale: this one written by Brenden Fletcher, which sort of makes him a guest at his own dinner party, and drawn by Moritat, meaning it is drawn so giddily well you just want to bounce up and down in your seat while reading it. I was not familiar with this more cartoonish style, but we’ve seen it twice recently—once in an issue of Black Canary, and now here. Well I don’t want to spoil too much about it, but the art is absolutely charming and engaging, and rife with the artist’s usual attention to detail. Also the coloring is perfect and looks cinematic! Spoilers!

And oh, the plotting! The story is three pages, and each employs this formula of one big picture with panels sort of cascading below it…just pick this danged book up already! I haven’t even gotten to the story, and it’s probably the most pertinent one of this “Yearbook” arc because it actually gives us a prequel to one of the earliest yarns of the series proper, when the Academy Gang met up with teenage Man-Bat (Teen-Bat?) Tristan Grey. He more or less told us then about being fairly well tortured and held against his will by the wicked Professor Milo, and here we get to see how it unfolded. It took place over the summer prior to this school year—the same summer during which Olive Silverlock stayed at the Academy due to mommy issues—when Batman asked the school’s headmaster, who then tasked Professor Milo with curing young Tristan Grey of his Botulism. Instead, he isolates the Man-Bat serum and uses it on Coach Humphreys. When the school year begins, Milo becomes interested in the skulkings around of nosy children, and pilfers a key from Headmaster Hammer’s office…for which he is caught and summarily fired. Oh well, he fucks off back to Arkham Asylum, and we get a lot of back story for some of the shenanigans that went on earlier in the series.

The girls track Robin through air vents, and wind up in Mister Silversmith’s class on, uh, silver smithing. Gotham Academy makes the large cast easy to remember by using names like Silverlock and Kidwithvisor. Olive spies some silvery footprints, suspiciously left by the otherwise tidy Robin, and Maps recalls the time she took this class, which is the equivalent of shop class at this prestigious prep school. Which is sort of silly, since even a rich asshole is more likely to need basic wood and metal work skills over being a silver smith. The teacher, Mister Silversmith, is a real fanatic for the metal, and feels only the most precious, important items should be coated in silver. So for homework, he tells the class to each bring in their most precious items to be dipped in silver and made summarily useless. The class is none too happy about this, but Maps has other ideas: to steal the silver coating liquid and use it to make her own Silver Monster Fighting Weapon! This saves the precious items of her classmates, as well as bringing another multi-pronged knife into the world.

Olive and Maps track Robin to the theater, where Maps remembers the time she was a magician’s assistant to Pomeline during a talent show, and despite Pomeline’s warnings wore some oversized gloves to more accurately play her role. The trick was supposed to be that Maps climbs up a tall ladder and lets herself fall, meanwhile Pomeline opens a portal that will teleport Maps safely to the stage, unharmed? Is this something Pomeline can do? I mean, I knew she was all witchy sometimes, but I don’t remember her cracking out magic like some Enchantress. Because Maps’ gloves are loose, she falls from the ladder before reaching its full height, so Pomeline reacts quickly and rushes over to catch her, old school style. This ruins the trick, but earns Pom the respect of her mom, which is apparently all she wanted for some reason. So…she can open portals and stuff? For real? This bit goes on for a lot of pages, but this work of Natasha Alterici is super engaging and there are several funny moments with Maps which are just so…Maps. And you know what? I’m not even going to tell you what happened with Robin and Olive and Maps. You want to find out? Go read the book. Or let your mind wander. On second thought, don’t let your mind wander. A full thirty percent of the people reading this site are known to be wearing state-provided ankle bracelets, if you catch my drift. Hopefully, you don’t.

This has really been an enjoyable run on Gotham Academy, and I think it’s going to make a nice trade collection when all is said and done. I’d say you could even give these books to a prospective fan first, though the characterization of Maps as the breakout character is a more recent phenomenon, and might not read as enthusiastically should one go back after these vignettes. Regardless, the whole thing was a lot of fun, plenty of great artists and stories to choose from, and if you come away liking most of them then you’re on the winning side, and that’s what counts. I mean, that’s what we’re doing here, right? Locked in a death-struggle between creator and fan, each trying to bilk the other in a conflict marked more by spiritual abatement than financial? Are you telling me I don’t have to keep sucking Kyle Higgins’ life force through a dark magic portal? Oh jeez. My bad dude. Here, I’ve turned it off.

Bits and Pieces:

"Yearbook" has concluded, and you know what? I liked it a lot. I don't know that you could sustain a book indefinitely in this format, but luckily the publisher doesn't intend to. Gotham Academy will be back next September with the "second semester," and will crossover with Lumberjanes this summer which is a series I WILL be reviewing. This last arc in Gotham Academy before Rebirth has been entertaining and mostly of a high quality, and I think the editorial staff in particular should probably take a bow here. 


1 comment:

  1. This issue reeks of 'Chekov's Gun"

    Which is good, and makes you look forward to future issues