So.. my last post got a bit aggrieved and ranty towards DC and the New 52, I shall not apologise for that but maybe it wasn't fun to read. It certainly wasn't fun to write, I prefer to accentuate the positive. I'm a hugely loyal person and my loyalty to DC had been sorely tested since The New 52 began with so little of worth either coming out of it or sticking around when it did. But this book has restored my faith in the company. It feels like DC tracked me down personally and said "sorry, maybe you'll like this a little better" and thrust it into my hands. Then DC stroked my hair and left me to read it in one sitting. I wasn't sure what to expect but what I got was a hugely enjoyable blend of the best elements of manga influenced western comic art set in the most vibrant of DC's various locales, The Batverse. Gorgeously written by Becky Cloonan and Brendan Fletcher and beautifully illustrated by Karl Kerschl, in six issues it gives us a fantastic cast of characters and oodles of potential for cool adventures and character revelations still to come. Although it began under The New 52, that label is noticably missing from the trade paperback's cover. It feels far more in tune with the post-Convergence freshness of the DCYou and I wonder if the success of this and the relaunched Batgirl were big factors in taking bigger risks with the tone of their properties. Set in the boarding school which gives the series its name, it is an appropriately gothic inspired setting for the various mysteries that our main characters investigate, all the while as principal character Olive tries to remember what happened to her the previous summer that had such a dramatic effect on her personality and why she hates Batman so much. Let's begin.
It's a dark and stormy evening. Sat inside a darkened room are Olive Silverlock, a white haired and moody girl. And Mia "Maps" Mizoguchi the sister of Olive's sortof ex boyfriend Kyle, she is a bundle of unfettered joy and geekery. They are meeting with the Headmaster Hammer, the tells Maps that because she missed orientation she is likely not aware "all first year students are assigned a 'nanny' to help them acclimatise to campus life."
|Headmaster Hammer, with Maps and Olive.|
Olive bumps into a snooty girl called Pommeline Fritch who snobbily takes a verbal swipe at Olive being there on a Wayne Foundation scholarship. Olive then attends her first class, The History Of Gotham 201. They are set the book "The Diary of Millie Jane Cobblepot" to read. Olive reflects that she has practically memorised the book because Millie Jane didn't fit in either. A boy called Colton Rivera throws a paper shuriken at her head, "this is my life." thinks Olive.
|Colton (left), Pommeline (right)|
Olive: "If there is a ghost at the academy, I'd trade places with it in a second. What I wouldn't give to just disappear."
Maps is confused as to why Olive isn't sitting with her and Kyle at lunch, but Olive blows her off. She then sneaks up on and surprises Colton making him drop the fireworks he has, getting him into trouble and them confiscated. Back in her shared dorm room, she moodily stares into the mirror until her roomate snaps, "I liked you better last year when you were normal."
Olive then returns to Maps and asks if she would like to skip assembly and check out the creepy parts of the old chapel instead. Maps grins. Once inside they decide to climb to the belfry with Maps chattering away as to how this is similar to an rpg scenario she once oversaw. When it looks like they can't get further up the stairs she reveals she has a grappling hook and rope in her bag.
They don't need it yet and reach the roof. Outside the Bat signal is shining, "Ugh. I hate that thing" says Olive. The big bell then rings and in surprise Maps falls off the roof and ends up hanging off a gargoyle. Olive uses the grappling hook and rope to hang down and get her, then they get swarmed by bats and rappel further down ending up hanging outside a window which Bruce Wayne is giving a talk to the school in front of much to the rest of the school's amusement.
|Maps and Olive crash the lecture.|
Olive: "No! No! Get away from me! You're not taking me too!"
The history teacher calms her down and Olive is not sure why she reacted like that. She returns to her dorm later, feeling a little better about the place and finds her roomate Lucy terrified because she thinks the ghost is spying on her. Olive promises she will stay all night with her, no extra-curricular exploration for now.
The next chapter begins with Olive reading Millie Jane's diary again. She hears a thud and scratches from behind the wall, but before she can investigate further the room is lit up by light from the Bat signal. As she looks out of the window she sees several hooded figures scurrying across the grounds.
Next day before class begins, Olive sees Pommeline kissing a boy called Heathcliff saying "shhh, our secrets remember." Annoyed by her staring, Pommeline confronts Olive saying she's heard all about her and the summer break, "I bet you love all the attention..." She is cut-off by their History professor coming it, who "volunteers" Pommeline and Olive to work on the same history project together. "I think there's a lot you girls can learn from each other" she says.
|Pommeline is up to something...|
In the library the librarian tells them a certain book may come in handy and Olive is sent to find it. As she searches she comes across a handsome, blonde haired boy with red eyes who startles her. She collects herself and finds the book. It's another copy of The Diary Of Millie Jane Cobblepot. But this edition has lots of handwritten diagrams, maps and symbols on it. Pommeline takes the book saying Olive has no idea what it means, then takes a shot at Olive's mum being "crazy" and leaves.
|The handsome and mysterious boy.|
Olive: "Ugh. What's wrong with me? If I'm not crazy, why do I have a giant blank spot in my head where this summer should be?"
Colton pranks her again and she leaves to go to the tennis courts where she used to watch Kyle play. She bumps into her History professor who is sneaking a cigarette. They chat for a bit and Olive confesses she doesn't feel like the same person she was before summer and that has affected how she feels about Kyle.
The returns to her dorm room and find Maps there, who is investigating the noises behind the wall. She's temporarily swapped with Lucy who is too frightened to stay in the room. Before Maps can take a hammer to the wall, Olive hears something outside.
|Mere walls cannot stop Maps.|
She stomps over and grabs the book, Pommeline shouts at her, "Get your hands off that! Get out! You'll ruin everything." But Olive turns and fire rises up and swirls around her and she says:
Olive: "You have no idea who you're dealing with."
|Olive gets scary.|
Pommeline says she summoned her, and had been trying to banish her as well. Pommeline grudgingly admits Olive might be trustworthy having done a weeks detention and not snitched on her. They discuss Millie Jane's relationship with the closed North Hall and Pommeline wonders if she summoned the wrong ghost and who is actualy buried in Millie Jane's grave. Heathcliff comes up and mocks her gently and Pommeline leaves in a huff.
Olive asks why Heathcliff is involved in Pommeline's secret society, The Order Of The Bat. He says he wants her to like him he guesses. Kyle comes up and says he and Olive need to talk, so they go somewhere private for a chat. He wants to know why he didn't contact her all summer. Olive admits it was because of her mum, "she's been in a .. kind of...hospital. She's sick. And this summer the hospital collapsed." Now her mum is in a coma and the doctors don't think she'll ever wake up. Kyle says he'll give her all the space she needs, she can break his heart, "just don't break Maps's heart too."
|Kyle, the most understanding boyfriend ever.|
Realising they need help to get inside there she invites Colton to come along and Pommeline joins as well. Colton picks the lock on the North Hall front door and they venture inside. Olive thinks, "I've been here before and I wasn't alone". Suddenly she thinks they should leave, but Pommeline drags her in deeper. They find a huge hole in the floor and Olive reaches inside, then a huge green hand suddenly pokes up through the hole and Maps yells "run!" in fear.
|The monster in the hole.|
He asks if she knows about the break in at the North Hall, she mumbles she doesn't and she's seen the tape, she'll stay away. "Of course you will" says the Headmaster. She leaves and as she walks down some steps she opens Millie Jane's diary and finds the odd symobol highlighted inside it. Then she slips and the blonde haired boy catches her. He says it isn't the first time he's caught her. She asks if he means during summer, but he just leaves mysteriously.
Later as Olive and Maps discuss the odd symbol, Olive tries to tell her about the situation between her and Kyle. But Maps just chunters on and says she saw the creepy boy drawing the symbol in the cafeteria, "Let's interrogate him!" she exclaims. They track him down, finding out he's called Eric and confront him about the symbol. He just squeaks and flees, shedding papers as he goes. "Secret papers!" says Maps. They turn out to be pages from the script of Macbeth.
We then cut to Maps and Olive planning another nights exploration. Suddenly they see the "ghost" of Millie jane outside the window. Olive smashes the window and grabs the ghost and discovers it's a fake. She goes up to the roof and finds Heathcliff and another boy there doing the fakery. Heathcliff admits he did it to make Pommeline happy, so Olive promises not to tell her. She then asks him about the blonde haired boy, and Healthcliff says he is an exchange student called Tristan.
As she walks back through the girls dorm, she over hears Pommeline arguing with her mother on the phone about her occult interests. Olive finds the symbol and it leads to a series of passageways behind the walls. She investigates further and finds herself behind her dorm room wall, she calls to Maps through the crack who is eager to come and help her. Olive explores further and suddenly she bumps into Killer Croc, huge and green and still in his Arkham Asylum uniform. Pommeline says she won't tell anyone why he is here, but she thinks he knows about her mum and she needs him to tell her.
|The "ghost" revealed.|
Maps: "Crap! You won't believe this. I saw a lizard man! Lots of hit points but never drop anything good."
I love her. She asks if Croc is "friend or foe". Friend decides Olive and they follow him deeper into the tunnels. She muses that all the ghost really was was an escaped Arkham Asylum inmate. They reach a room with multiple doors and the mysterious symbol carved into the floor. Maps consults the diary and uses a compass to ascertain the right direction, but when they travel down it, Croc has blocked the way. The tunnel leads directly to the North Hall. Olive slumps saying she'll never find out more from Croc, but Maps says she has friends who can help.
Maps: "We're all in this together."
She and Maps return to Olive's dorm room where they find Lucy trying on her dress for the dance which is up coming. She has heard Olive has a thing for Tristan the blonde haired exchange student and that it's "Splits for you and Kyle." Olive protests it's no such thing, but Maps leaves abruptly saying to be at her room tommorrow at nineteen hundred hours.
|Secret plans are planned.|
All four of them manage to sneak away and convene outside the headmasters study. There is a riddle lock on the door, but Maps unlocks it, "what? I'm good with puzzles." They retrieve Colton's stuff and rummage through the rest of the confiscated things. Maps hands Olive a crossbow for protection and off they go to the North Hall.
On the way, Olive is startled by a giant batlike shape flying overhead. She fires an arrow at it and brings it down. Horrified by what she might have done she breaks from the others and goes to investigate. It is Tristan, he is winged and half batlike, he has the Manbat "Langstrom Virus". Luckily Olive hasn't badly hurt him.
|Tristan's illness revealed.|
Maps then appears and hugs Olive as Tristan flies off. Using Colton's explosives and an underground passageway they blast there way into the North Hall where Croc is hiding. Olive tells him not to run and that they have bought him food. They all sit down together, but before Croc can tell Olive what she needs to hear about her mum, Batman appears. Uh oh.
|Batman vs. Killer Croc.|
Down in the depths of the tunnels Croc tells Olive about her mum. How she had another side to her who "wasn't always so nice." He says he didn't really belong in the Asylum and neither did her mum. She was the one who told him about the tunnels under the school.
Croc: "When she looked at me, she didn't see a monster. And she never stopped loving you."
Olive thanks him. He says he swore to protect her "but now look what happened." Olive says she'll be OK and he agrees her friends seem trustworthy. He starts to swim away and Olive says she hopes they can meet again some day. Croc says she has a little of her mother's fire, and then he is gone.
|A sweet moment between Croc and Olive.|
He says both Croc and her mother belonged in Arkham Asylum, "It was the only way." Gotham needed protection from her, "One day you will understand" he says, then he asks for the special Diary of Millie Jane Cobblepot. Olive sulkily says she doesn't have it. When she turns to face him, he's gone.
Next day Pommeline and Olive present their report, somewhat slanted by recent events. Later at lunch Pommeline laments the fact they only got a C+ for it. Kyle comes up and tells Olive he knows she was in the North Hall and she can trust him to be there for her when stuff happens.
Then Colton comes up and shows off his A grade. Maps suddenly realises the mystery symbol is two inverted "A's" joined together, which must mean Arkham Asylum and the Academy have more links than they realise. Maps decides to create a "Detectives Club" made up of her, Olive, Pommeline, Colton and Kyle to investigate and Olive agrees it's a great idea. She finally feels that she belongs. The last three pages detail Damian Wayne, Bruce Wayne's son and the current Robin breaking in and stealing back the diary. He gives it to his dad in the headmaster's office and the head welcomes him to Gotham Academy.
|The new club, left to right, Pommeline, Kyle, Maps, Olive and Colton.|