Gotham Academy 2

gotham acadamy 2Today, Suzanne and Taylor are discussing Gotham Academy 2, originally released November 5th, 2014

Suzanne: A few years ago, I lost interest in reading literature about teenagers and coming-of-age stories. Maybe I read books like Catcher In the Rye too many times in high school. Or when I hit my mid-twenties, I could finally get up on my soap box about how youth-obsessed American culture can be without feeling (too) hypocritical.

Then Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s Young Avengers shook up my perspective, proving that the right creative team can sell almost any genre. Since then, books like Batgirl and Gotham Academy are (soon to be) mainstays on my pull list. Relationship drama? Impulsive heroes? Hipster fashion? Check. Check. Check. I’m hoping that Gotham Academy can maintain its unique tone without lapsing into a paint-by-numbers romantic drama.

Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher pack this issue full of world building and character motivations. Olive stays up late at night reading the Diary of Mary Jean Cobblepot, which features some unsettling themes about death. Then she spots from her window some mysterious caped and masked figures running off into the night. These opening pages set a foreboding, slightly eerie tone for an issue filled with secrets. The next morning in class, Professor McPherson assigns Olive and Pomeline to do a class project together because they’re, like, practically besties at this point. Insert a few panels of Pomeline insulting Olive and calling her various names, making pointed references to her summer break and generally being a bitch. Pomeline accomplishes all this during gasps for air, having a steamy make out session with some dude named Heathcliff. Heathcliff, like the character from Wuthering Heights? Is that meant to be a bit on the nose?

pomelineIn the lunchroom later, Olive dodges Kyle and (to a lesser extent) Maps by trying to sit at what looks like the loners’ table. When Kyle tries to confront her directly, she abandons lunch entirely and meets up with Pomeline in the library. There we meet an eccentric librarian named Mr. Scarlett who feels like he could be closely related to Mr. Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. While most of us ladies would call it daydreaming, Olive freaks out when she has a vision/flashback of a cute-looking blonde guy in the library stacks. Pomeline becomes more engrossed in their class project when she discovers plans for a cemetery behind the supposedly-haunted North Hall. She steals Olive’s book and bails on her.

What would a teen drama be without some overly complicated romance? Olive crushes on Kyle as he plays tennis, only he’s unaware of her presence as she hides behind the bleachers. Professor McPherson pops by for a chat, encouraging Olive to tell Kyle directly about her summer break that readers seem to know so much about. When Olive returns to her room, she and Maps follow the masked figures back to the Cobblepot Crypt where they interrupt some cult ritual. Olive steals back the book from what turns out to be Pomeline and Heathcliff; she looks powerful and almost supernatural surrounded by flames.

oliveThis installment didn’t quite hold the same charm as the first issue for me. My favorite element so far (i.e. Olive and Maps’ relationship) took a backseat to Olive’s brooding and her summer-that-shall-not-be-named. As Spencer mentioned last month, I can’t quite connect with Olive’s struggle and feelings of alienation without knowing more about her story. I’m also cautious about Olive’s lack of assertiveness in her relationship with Kyle. Didn’t teen readers get enough of that with Bella Swan? (Sorry Twilight fans.)

Taylor, what did you think about that last panel? Any predictions about Olive’s backstory? Was I being too impatient about letting the mystery unfold?

Taylor: That last panel must have something to do with Olive’s origins what with the climatic phrase “After all…I am my mother’s daughter.” At this point it’s hard to tell if the flames are being controlled by Olive or if they’re simply there for effect. In either case the effect is that we can’t help but speculate on just who and/or what Olive is. This being the Batman universe and all, my money is on her being the daughter or relative of some well-known Batman antagonist. While  the above panel does indeed make it seem as if she’s harboring some sort of power, there are other factors which make me believe this as well. There’s that whole missing and mysterious summer thing, there’s the frequent allusions to her mother, and of course there is the way she physically looks different from her classmates. All of these combined point toward an origin of dubious repute.

What makes this speculation so fun of course is that Olive is only a teenager. Teenagers are by all accounts the real-life equivalent of fictional Batman villains. They’re rude, obnoxious, and may just be destroying the country. Lest you think I’m being hyperbolic, just witness what we’ve have seen in the pages of this issue. Essentially, everyone is a jerk or at least the very least catty with everyone they come into contact with. Aside from Olive’s self-absorption (a true hallmark of the adolescent) the only genuine and heartfelt interactions we get are between Olive and Maps.  All of this angst and drama makes it hard to tell who really is evil and who is not, if such a thing exists in this school. When our baseline for morality is based on people who enjoy holding seances in crypts in the middle of the night, determining if Olive is of evil origin or not becomes a little difficult.

Simply put, I love all of this drama. I think it makes for fun story that is made all the better because of the wonderful backdrop it is painted on. The art of Karl Kerschl illuminates this backdrop, Gotham Academy, quite well with a manga-inspired design. However, what really steals the show for me is the color work of Geyser. Where this title could easily be dusky and brooding, Geyser boldly chooses to make it bright. A fine example of this comes when we are introduced to the library in a horizontal panel.

Owl be damned.Instead of Gothic inspired lighting, which would have been the obvious choice, Geyser chooses to illuminate the scene with some wonderful sunset rays. In particular, I love how the light curls around the owl in the center of panel, giving us a grand impression of a brilliant sunset. It’s a tiny detail, but it makes the academy seem like a magical, welcoming place. While some might feel this belies the mysterious nature of a place inspired by Gotham, my feeling is that it opens up the environment to more possibilities.

Of course should one prefer the gloom of the dark and the macabre, Geyser has you covered as well. When Maps and Olive sneak into the haunted graveyard they find a crypt open with chanting coming from below. As they make their way into the fire-lit tomb, the darkness of night recedes behind them.

Shaded ColorsThe glow of this fire in the top of the panel is so nice and warm, and the softness of the orange has us basically feeling the warmth of the flame-generated lights. It’s a stark contrast to the frosted blue of the night. The two colors, this orange and blue, play off of each other very well and create a page that is darn aesthetically pleasing. As our protagonists move downstairs Geyser also displays some nifty shadow work on our heroes and the floors. All in all this attention to detail makes the art in this book incredibly appealing.

What this means for the comic in general is that despite any reservations one may have about teen dramas, it’s worth the read. It’s pretty to look at and the underlying mystery of our main character and the setting are enough to keep even the most skeptical DC fan interested.

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?

10 comments on “Gotham Academy 2

  1. I’m still digging the tone and visuals of this title — certainly enough to stick around for a while yet — but yeah, the vagueness of this story is still making it hard for me to connect, both to Olive and to the mystery at hand. I know this is a mystery, but a few more answers would make it a lot easier to sit back and enjoy the questions.

    • Yeah, I was trying to think of other stories where the protagonist’s past was shrouded in mystery, and while there are TONS, very few draw quite as much attention to it as they do here. I suspect we’ll be getting answers soon, but I don’t think this series will really click into place until then.

  2. I haven’t read this book, so I can’t comment, but I notice that reception to it isn’t cold and it seems to be friendly to female and young readers in a way that’s very welcome, and that’s all very good.

    I just wanted to bring up in general the trend that I’ve noticed of DC using some of their very good artists as writers, which I truthfully don’t understand. It’s happening here, with Becky Cloonan, and on Harley Quinn with Amanda Conners, and my gripe here is kind of two-fold; First, there are TONS of writers out there who seem totally incapable of catching a big break, so why are we assuming artists would be better than those folks, and second, I have been dying to see new interior art from Beckly Cloonan and Amanda Conners at DC. I would think that the logical thing would be to have these very talented folks working on minis or other books which aren’t married to a monthly deadline, since I’m assuming the production time is the thing holding these big draw artists back, instead of putting them in another position. I’m sure they’re eager to write, so maybe it’s DC’s way of keeping them close to home? It just seems unfair to gifted writers who can’t get work, and maybe not a great use of their art talent. Am I looking at that all wrong?

    • Sorry! I meant to post it as a reply to your previous post. Feel free to read my one below for my proper response : )

    • I suspect it has more to do with what the Cloonan and Conners want than what DC wants. I think there are more than a few artists who would like to try a hand at writing, and honestly, they probably do have a great handle on the visual medium of comics (way more than, say, a novelist). I don’t think this is a new trend, and I actually think DC set the precedent for giving artist-writers a co-writer back at the launch of the New 52. Specifically, I’m thinking of J.H. Williams III on Batwoman and Francis Manapul on The Flash. Now, those guys were also still the regular artists on those series, but both needed fill-ins from time to time. Those fill-ins kind of opened the door to those artist-writers just becoming straight-up writers, which I think is why we have folks like Cloonan, Conners, Cameron Stewart, and sharing writing duties on series without any pretense about doing the art (though I think Stewart is doing the breakdowns for Batgirl).

  3. I think you have a valid point.

    The first example I can think of is the pair of Meredith and David Finch taking over the creative duties of Wonder Woman. Finch is an artist–not my cup of tea–but an artist nonetheless; and DC has tried really hard to make him a writer as well, with books like The Dark Knight, which were less than stellar. Then you have Meredith who, to the best of my knowledge, has little to no experience writing comics, books, or articles. To see it in the worst cynical light, it simply appears that she got the job due to nepotism.

    Then you have the recent news that CM Punk will be writing a Thor Annual next year in January. Now don’t get me wrong, he’s a fantastic wrestler and public personality, but a writer? Has he ever written anything professionally that could lead one to believe that he deserved the opportunity more than other people who have more experience writing and who may even make a living out of it? Did he only get the job because of his celebrity status? If so, what about the men and women who work hard every day honing their craft in writing, yet always get overlooked in favor of big names or of the simple motto: “It’s all about who you know”?

    Granted, I will try out each of these writer’s upcoming projects because I don’t want to be too biased; but I will also admit that my opinion of said projects are at least a little tainted. Hopefully, the quality of their works could turn that around : )

    • 100% agreed with everything you just said. I actually like Finch’s stuff, depending on the context, but find his female heroes to be his biggest weakness, so I don’t think WW will suit him in the slightest, unfortunately. And I believe Meredith has only worked for Zenoscope, which I don’t enjoy that house style in the slightest. I also try to be optimistic, but that was an immediate drop for me after WW 35.

    • When I was at Wizard World Philadelphia back in June I attended a panel on how to be a comic book writer (featuring Marv Wolfman, Joe Caramanga, Scott Beatty and Danny Fingeroth), and they all mentioned that one of the best ways to break into writing comics was to ALREADY be famous. That’s why you see guys like CM Punk, or musicians like Gerard Way or Max Bemis, or even novelists like Jodie Picoult (who worked on Wonder Woman a few years before the New 52) suddenly getting writing work with the Big 2.

      It’s not entirely fair, but it’s certainly not a new phenomenon.

      (also, I’m actually really interested in reading Punk’s Thor annual, if only for curiosity’s sake.)

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