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Review: Gotham Academy Vol 1: Welcome to Gotham Academy

Olive Silverlock is a student at the prestigious Gotham Academy, where Gotham’s best and brightest go to study. But it’s kind of hard to concentrate when there’s a ghost haunting the campus, a secret society is performing rituals on the grounds, and Olive has to be a “nanny” to her ex-boyfriend’s little sister, all while still dealing with the fallout of a mysterious summer incident that has left her with amnesia, a bad attitude and a fear of bats.

Review: Gotham Academy Vol 1: Welcome to Gotham Academy
Gotham Academy 1Written by Becky Cloonan & Brenden Fletcher; Art by Karl Kerschl; Colors by Geyser with Dave McCaig; Letters by Steve Wands
DC Comics; June 2015
ISBN: 978-1401254728
160 Pgs.; $14.99

I’ve never been much of a DC Comics fan, particularly in recent years with their emphasis on dark and gritty stories, but I have heard so many good things about Gotham Academy that I decided to try it out. I am happy to say I was not disappointed with this first volume. The story is the perfect balance of spooky, adventurous fun, and I found myself unable to stop turning pages.

Gotham Academy follows Olive Silverlock, a second year student who is attending Gotham Academy on a scholarship from the Wayne Foundation. Her mother has been in the hospital, so she lives on campus. A mysterious incident that involved the north building has left Olive with no memory of the summer, and as a result, she has pulled away from her friends and is considering breaking up with her boyfriend, the school’s tennis star Kyle Mizoguchi. This is complicated by the fact that Kyle’s little sister, Mia, aka Maps, is now going to the school, and Olive is her guide for her first year. As Olive tries to navigate her new life situation, she has to contend with the ghost of Millie Jane Cobblepot haunting the girls’ dorm, classmates who believe they summoned the ghost, an escaped convict from Arkham Asylum living in the secret passages in the Academy, and her sudden fear and hatred of all things bat-like, including the Batman.

I really enjoyed this first volume of Gotham Academy, which collects the first six issues. It’s an ensemble series with a great cast, and Olive is a great lead. She has a no-nonsense attitude about the world and doesn’t believe in the supernatural. She gives as good as she gets and isn’t afraid to run in when someone is in trouble. Maps is really fun. She is one year younger than Olive, but they are best friends. Maps is also a big geek. She views the world around her through role playing, describing people with “+” stats and likening situations to RPG scenarios. Pomeline starts out as an antagonist to Olive. She believes in the occult and believes she summoned the ghost. As they investigate the mystery, she and Olive become more friendly, or at least less antagonistic. The last member of the team is Colton. He’s a troublemaker, selling fireworks to the other kids, and is also known as a lock-picker and a sneak. He always wears sunglasses and tries to pass himself off as cool and suave. Throughout the book, many of the teachers are introduced as well, a cast of characters that is just as eclectic as the kids.

The story was very engaging. It balanced well between Olive’s personal drama and the mystery of the North Hall. Along the way the ghost’s identity is revealed, and even though what happened to Olive over the summer has yet to be explained, just enough clues are dropped to keep the reader engaged. Each issue ends on a cliffhanger that is just dramatic enough to keep the reader turning the pages, and the story never felt tired or contrived. It wrapped up neatly but still left enough loose ends to make the reader want to keep coming back. Kerschl’s art was as delightful as the story. He has a style that is clean and suited to the spooky atmosphere of Gotham Academy. It is a diverse cast, and while all the characters look great, I was especially appreciative of Kyle, Olive’s maybe-ex-boyfriend.

Gotham Academy Vol 1: Welcome to Gotham Academy was a refreshing change from DC’s usual dark and gritty male-gaze-y fare. The kids all look and feel real, and the story, with touches of supernatural, mystery, romance, comedy, and drama, has it all. It’s perfect for drawing tween-to-teen readers not only into the DC New 52 universe but into comics in general.

Lori Henderson About Lori Henderson

Lori Henderson is a mother of two teenage daughters and an avid reader. She blogs about manga at her personal blog Manga Xanadu as well as contributing and editing for Manga Village. She blogs about all things fandom (mainly Doctor Who) at her other personal blog Fangirl Xanadu. She's been at it so for over 5 years now and counting!

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