By Alex Wilson
DC Comics isn’t known for publishing new material. Yes, they put out “new” books – like the upcoming Cyborg and recently released Black Canary – but some of their new material is just rebooted (Prez) or rehashed (the majority of the New 52). DC’s young series Gotham Academy is an interesting mix between the two viewpoints, and fans and critics have spoken – the series is awesome. Check out the DC Wiki here.
For those who haven’t read it, Gotham Academy follows new characters Olive Silverlock, Maps, and plenty more as they navigate the prestigious Gotham Academy. Together, they unlock the school’s mysteries as well as personal ones, and yes – Bruce Wayne makes an appearance and GA is technically a bat-book. Since the series’ first issue last fall, GA has earned a prominent (and fairly diverse) fanbase.
But what makes GA so popular? Well, for starters – it technically isn’t. Sales of Gotham Academy are much lower than fellow bat-books Batgirl, Batman/Superman and Harley Quinn. And yet, while sales are lower, praise for GA is universally high. This is incredibly rare nowadays, and much more important than financial sales. At a time when Marvel and DC seemingly can’t go a week without a PR gaffe of some sort, having a burgeoning, beloved comic definitely helps boost your cred.
Karl Kerschl’s art has been deemed “fantastic” by critics, and they’re completely right. The art helps move the narrative along and feels fresh compared to other comics (aside from Kerschl’s other works, like Teen Titans and Flash). The action sequences are drawn from unique perspectives, so while the book doesn’t feel overly quirky – the little differences help it stand out from the pack.
The most important word here is perspective, because Gotham Academy doesn’t even feel like a part of the bat-family and yet the word ‘Gotham’ is right there in the title. Ultimately, this works in the book’s favor. If you’re a casual fan, you can just read Gotham Academy and enjoy the series, but if you religiously subscribe to all bat-books, you can appreciate the references and ties into the larger DC Universe. Plus, when more prominent Gothamites show up in the series, it feels natural – especially because they aren’t necessary for the story to move forward.
That’s not to say GA’s cast doesn’t stand on its own. They do. Olive Silverlock is an engaging lead, no matter if she’s dealing with standard teen drama or more Gotham-centric mysteries. Social identity crises resonate with readers of all ages, and as a new character to the DCU Olive is a blank slate – meaning that writer Becky Cloonan and team have free rein with Olive’s past and present relationships. (If you’re wondering whether Olive has romance troubles too, don’t worry! She does – and they’re fun to read about.)
Gotham Academy, interestingly, was released as part of the last wave for DC’s New 52 initiative. It’s a shame that most New 52 books weren’t like GA. Gotham Academy is simultaneously smart and fun; it feels like a throwback to the early days of comic book protagonists like Peter Parker and Barbara Gordon while still having a place in the digital age. If you’re not reading Gotham Academy, it’s a book you absolutely should pick up. Odds are that you’ll love as much as everyone else does.
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