Olive’s school year is not starting out well. She can’t remember what happened over the summer, but it’s left her with a new fear of bats. It’s also driving a wedge between her and her boyfriend, Kyle, which is especially inconvenient because Olive has been chosen to mentor Kyle’s hyper little sister at school. Oh, and the campus might be haunted. Just another term at Gotham Academy!
Welcome to Gotham Academy brings together a motley crew of high school students: scholarship kid, Olive; straight-laced athlete, Kyle and his nerdy, rambunctious sister, Maps; sullen goth, Pomeline; and troublemaker, Colton. There’s arguing and teasing, but there’s also camaraderie and fun. The team investigates rumors of a ghost haunting Gotham Academy, but turns up something very different, something connected to Olive’s mysterious mother and Gotham’s most famous hero. But how do you follow a lead when Batman wants the case closed?
The artwork is detailed and dynamic. Color is used to great effect herein: daylight scenes are varied and vivid without becoming chaotic, while numerous nighttime scenes are dramatic with limited palettes. They remain visually clear despite the impression of darkness created by casting everything in shades of a single hue. Backgrounds often have a slightly blurry shading, resulting in a foggy, murky look that supports the drama and mystery of the story. With few black outlines and a lot of color gradation that appears painted, the artwork feels softer than that of many superhero comics. A limited number of brief flashback scenes are illustrated in a different style—even less crisp and more painted-looking—that effectively evokes the shadowy world of memory.
I read a digital review copy, so I can’t make observations about the physical book, though I was a bit surprised at the size of the pages in the galley format. Viewed at full size, they’re smaller—and thus a little harder to read—than most DC comics.
Batman fans will be pleased to note plenty of tie-ins to related titles and lore. From Wayne Foundation funding to Cobblepots in the local history curriculum and even the Bat-Signal shining over the school, Welcome to Gotham Academy locates itself solidly within the Gotham that fans know and love. Batman himself makes a few appearances, as do other well-known characters from his canon.
This title is less focused on combat than many other comics in the Batman-verse. There’s mystery-solving action and hijinks without any real violence, and while there are hints of romance, a little kissing is as far as physical expressions go. Very young readers—the lower elementary school set, for example—might find the book creepy thanks to its gloomy, eerie mood, and some of the plot and dialogue may go over their heads.
Even though its characters are teens, this series could be enjoyable for preteens up to adults. Several character and plotline introductions will likely be explored later and the end of this volume solidifies the connection between Gotham Academy and the Bat clan with a twist that will pique readers’ curiosity about the next installment.
Gotham Academy: Welcome to Gotham Academy, vol. 1
by Becky Cloonan and Brendan Fletcher
Art by Karl Kerschl
DC Comics, 2015