Review: Gotham Academy #1

Gotham Academy

You want to know what was the dopest sh*t when I was a kid? Harry Potter and Batman.

You want to know what’s even cooler? A partial mixing of the setting and premise of the prior with the world of the latter.

Gotham Academy #1 is the nostalgia trip to the school days I always imagined I would be having. Running around the school, climbing bell towers, and searching for ghosts. This is everything I ever wanted as a kid incorporated into a single issue.

Let’s get the basics out of the way: it’s cutesy and full of charm.  It’s a modern DC comic that kids and adults can read (without being on the nose or anything.). It’s full of genuine heart and excitement. Karl Kerschl’s art is fantastic on just about every level. Cloonan and Fletcher are helping to push DC beyond the boundaries of the same-old superhero comics with this stuff.

But what’s even more confusing is that this book even got greenlit. The idea of a “Gotham Academy”-type series has gotten ever-increasing popularity as an idea. Even Kevin Smith and Paul Dini went crazy about an idea they called “Shadow of the Bat” and plotted it out before they even pitched it. The Gotham TV show is showcasing younger versions of the iconic heroes and villains we’ve grown up with. I have no idea where the obsession for the exploration of “young Batman” stuff came from, but I love it. It’s rad.

Gotham Academy

Fletcher and Cloonan have written full-fledged characters in only 20 pages, and I’m sure all of us can relate to Olive Silverlock’s angst on some level, or Maps’ overeager demeanor at being in a new school. I won’t hesitate to call the character’s complex, but there’s also something deceptively simple about how they’re written that makes them so endearing.

As said earlier, Kerschl is the highlight of the issue, and I’m suspecting he’ll be the highlight of the series. Visually, it’s reminescent of the cartoons of my youth. It looks like it would fit in with say Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy. Kerschl captures potentially spooky, ghostly atmospherics and synthesizes it with a cartoon-visual aesthetic. He also does all these crazy things with dynamic paneling. See the double-page spread (pages 4-5) that captures the scope of the Academy from an over-top view while using inset panels to showcase different elements of the school.  Or on page 13, where they climb a bell-tower (that seems like an eerie homage to the bell-tower scene of Tim Burton’s Batman)  and it’s filled with diagonal panels to sort of emulate the way the tower is climbed. Kerschl is a damned wizard with the pencils.

Give Gotham Academy a look. Or not, if the premise isn’t your thing. It’s still a rewarding read

My Rating: a rare 5/5

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