Gotham Academy has established itself firmly in its three issues as a comic that leans heavily on the past. From the story of Millie Jane Cobblepot to what happened to Olive and her mother over the summer, everything runs on rumors and history. It’s a great exaggeration of the way gossip tends to work in high school, from distributing old stories you heard about teachers to who’s currently dating who. For our Olive Silverlock, the environment of Gotham Academy has come with benefits (the friendship of Maps, for example) and downsides (the constant questions about why she’s changed, among other things). It makes sense that she’d devote herself to uncovering the mystery of the North Hall’s ghost and its possible connection with Millie Jane, who in her adolescent brain is one of the few humans she feels she can relate to.
Speaking of Millie Jane Cobblepot, we get a few updates on the front of Gotham Academy‘s plot, mostly about the ending of the last issue. It turns out Pomeline is a member of the Order of the Bat, a secret society that for some reason desires to bring Millie Jane’s ghost back to life, but to keep it to the North Hall. Unfortunately, as Olive and Pomeline uncover, Millie Jane was buried in an unmarked grave and the North Hall didn’t even exist while she was alive- meaning they have no idea whose ghost Pomeline brought back. Worse, thanks to Olive interrupting the ceremony at the end of #2, the ghost is free to wander school grounds. It’s good to see the plot bounding along at a faster pace than it seemed it would be last month, and it definitely offers more layers to the mystery. Learning that Pomeline is part of the Order and part of the Order’s goals gives us just enough to be satisfied while also getting us even more involved with the mystery.
The revelation of this information is also commendable for how it incorporates Pomeline into the main cast. Rival characters can be great if done well, but forced if they’re made ridiculously antagonistic; Pomeline’s straddled that line, but writers Becky Cloonan and Brendan Fletcher seem to have realized it’s better to bring her into the fold. Pomeline deciding it’s better to combine her knowledge with Olive’s and join her sneaking out after dark seems a lot more realistic, and a lot more fun, than having them constantly at odds would be. It’s done in a way that doesn’t sacrifice Pomeline’s personality either, with the scenes of her storming off after Heathcliff hasn’t answered her texts and nonchalantly brushing off losing one of her tablets serving to develop and further establish her personality without making her too stuck up to be completely unlikable.
Also on the character development front we finally get to see Olive and Kyle have their talk about how their relationship has dissolved, and it goes over better than expected, as well as reveals to us more details about Olive’s background. Olive and Kyle’s relationship didn’t fall apart over any specific incident, it seems; it’s just that Olive was so confused about what happened to her over the summer that re-entering a relationship was impossible for her emotionally, and she didn’t know how to explain that to Kyle. He takes the whole thing rather well, and it’s a poignant scene, where he affirms his affection for her while still giving her space- and only asking she not hurt Maps. The details of Olive’s background we’re given here are still scarce, but satisfying in that they make a lot of her actions immediately understandable. Her oft-mentioned mother had been in “a…kind of…hospital”, (in other words, Arhkam Asylum) and over the summer said “hospital” collapsed, leaving her mother comatose. While it doesn’t explain the intervention of Batman quite yet, it does tell us that Olive’s been through a lot of life-altering trauma, and it’s another case of a detail being introduced that gives us just enough information to feel like we’ve learned something without giving us too much.
The art of Karl Kerschl continues to be the shining star of this book, though, combined with the striking coloring work of the three colorists that participated in this issue, Geyser, Msassyk and Serge Lapointe. Kerschl’s characters are drawn in a somewhat cartoony fashion, perfect for a book about a bunch of kids going to school, but he also brings in just the right amount of levity and drama. His expressions are constantly on point, bringing life into the cast, and his backgrounds are detailed to a ridiculously beautiful extent that he somehow manages to get not to clash with the characters (do you see that panel up there? Dang!). The colorists bathe this issue in beautiful hues as well, and it’s also a probable testament to their talent that this issue doesn’t seem like it has three different people coloring it until you read the credits page.
There’s a lot going on in Gotham Academy this week, but that’s a good thing. Last issue I mused that I didn’t feel as invested in the backstory going on in this comic as I was in the present, but this issue brings the background into the forefront without sacrificing the character work, giving the book a distinct balance. As long as this continues, I’m excited to see what secrets lie in the Academy, and I’m eager to see what these kids discover under the floorboards.
- The mention that secret societies have been outlawed on Gotham Academy campus is the perfect kind of absurd silliness that this book can blend in without sacrificing its tone.
- I quite like Colton’s character, if only because I’ve known much more low key versions of his kind of person in real life (the modern high school equivalent is “the kid who likes to hack into the school system and mess around”, from what I know).
- I like how Olive’s scaredy-cat roommate Lucy keeps popping up, and Professor MacPherson is mentioned even when not appearing. Makes the world of the book feel more lived in.
- Heathcliff joining a secret society for Pomeline is kind of cute.
- So not only did Arkham Asylum get burned down with Olive’s mom in it over the summer, but Olive was there when the North Hall burned down and was saved by Batman. Those of you who read other bat-books: can we piece things together by now, or no?