Friday, 8 January 2016

Gotham Academy Book 1: Welcome To Gotham Academy (#1-6)

"I don't know where I'm going to end up, but right now, this is where I belong" - Olive Silverlock

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 is to be Map's nanny and he tells her to show her round the grounds later, but to avoid the closed and "structurally unsound" North Hall.  As Olive and Maps return to the classrooms, Olive thinks about how trapped she feels, "stuck with people who don't understand me and don't like me."  She alludes to something that happened during summer but does elaborate, only that it is part of what is keeping he there.

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)
Later at lunch Olive reflects that the whole school is talking about rumours that the place is haunted.

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.
They are bought inside and when Bruce Wayne comes towards her she cries out:

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...
Later at lunch, Olive ignores Map's calling for her to sit with her and Kyle.  Instead she asks a creepy boy if she can sit with him.  She sees he is sketching a portrait of Maps.  Kyle comes up and asks to talk with her privately, but she says she has to go and meet Pommeline in the library.  Maps asks the creepy boy, "can you sketch my Serpents and Spells character?"

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.
In her chemistry class, Olive is distracted:

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.
They sneak out and follow the sound of eerie chanting through the graveyard.  They find a huge tree and an underground entrance.  Inside are three cultists performing a ritual.  At first she is scared, but then she sees The Diary Of Millie Jane on a shelf nearby and realises the cultists are Pommeline and friends.

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.
The next chapter jumps forwards in time.  Olive is telling Colton that she has in detention because she went to retrieve a rare book.  She wants to know why he is suddenly so interested in her, he says it's because "last year you were such a drip."  He wants her to act as lookout for when he steals his confiscated stuff back.  Before they can go further they here a loud scream.  Olive runs out and finds it was from Lucy who has seen Millie Jane's ghost which they catch a glimpse of outside.

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 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.
Later Maps appears loaded down with snacks saying her and Olive are going to have a ghost hunting stakeout.  In a small tent she has erected on the roof she goes through the various sightings.  Olive says there is something up at the North Hall, "they're hiding something" she muses.  Through her binoculars she spies the blonde, red eyed boy again.  Then she spots two glowing eyes through a window in the North Hall.

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.
Next day during sports, a still freaked out Olive and Pommeline reflect that it definitely wasn't Millie Jane's ghost they saw.  Also the North Hall has been taped off, they know someone broke in just not who.  Olive is then called before the headmaster.  As she waits she overhears Bruce Wayne and her history teacher Macpherson discussing her but before she can hear much she spots the same odd symbol Maps saw before, there in the waiting room as well and the Headmaster appears behind her.

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.
Creepy Eric.
They go and watch the rehearsal but Eric isn't there.  Olive thinks it's a dead end, but the drama teacher appears and tells them they have a "gifted craftsman at work in the props room".  They find Eric there and he finally admits he saw the symbol in the girls dorm, he blurts out, "I didn't move any stones!"

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.
She shows him a photo of her mother, "Sybil Silverlock.  My mother.  You were in Arkham Asylum with her."  Croc says he was in the cell over from her, she gave him the photo before the place collapsed and he promised to look out for Olive.  As they talk they hear Maps yelling "I'm looooost in the walls.  It's amaaaaaazing!".  Frightened, Croc runs off.  Maps bursts onto the scene and says:

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.
We cut to the meeting. Colton and Pommeline are there as well. They have a map of the North Hall spread out and Maps thinks there is another way in but they need Colton's bag of tricks.  They plan to go there under cover of the dance.  Kyle appears to see Maps and Olive blurts out an invite to the dance with him.  We then cut to it, Maps is in a tuxedo because she is her roomate Katherine's "date" because Katherine couldn't find anyone to go with.  Maps is so damn sweet.

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.
He says his condition is why he is at the school.  He says he saw her last summer walking to the North Hall in a daze.  By the time he got down to her she was inside and "all hell had broken loose."  She was sleepwalking through the fire, which wasn't touching her, but the flames were angry and alive.  When the floor broke underneath her he swooped in and caught her and pulled her out of the place and took her to the infirmary where MacPherson asked him to keep an eye on her for the foreseeable future.

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.
As Croc and Batman fight, Olive watches in a trance.  The others start to run away, but Olive's eyes light up and she sets off the firecrackers in Colton's bag.  This starts a bigger fire.  Olive yells at Batman to "stay way from him! Haven't you already done enough?"  A beam falls and Croc dives on Olive protecting her, then he scoops her up and heads for the tunnel.  The others scarper, Colton yells they'll meet in the girls dorm later.

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.
Back on the surface, Maps fully glomps her.  Pommeline then reminds her they have their report on Millie Jane Cobblepot to do for tommorrow.  As she heads back to her dorm room alone, she thinks that she has changed, but "through it all I have to remember who I am". Batman then confronts Olive.  She lashes out at him verbally saying he destroyed her life, "you destroy everything!"

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.
Wonderful stuff.  Crammed with incident and fantastic character work and with mystery aplenty still to come this still wraps up nicely as a six issue introductory storyline.  I like that Pommeline is part of the gang.  The Queen Bee nemesis stuff can be a little tired so having her come over to the side of the main character is nice, though hopefully she'll still snark at Olive when Olive gets too self absorbed.  I did like the use of Killer Croc here, as I like it when Batman's rogues gallery gets some nuance to it.  Having him agree to watch over Olive was incredibly sweet and it's interesting how this series has so far framed Batman as an brutish, insensitive thug.  So how fantastic that Damian Wayne is going to start attending the school as Batman's eyes and ears within the place.  I have a great fondness for the arrogant little prick and I bet he'll be a major spanner in the works. Although this is Olive's story, uber nerdy Maps still steals every scene she is in, if the difference between the DCYou and The New 52 can be summed up by one thing, it's that a hyperactive, goofy and unrelentingly positive character like Maps can now star in a book.  This is excellent by the way.  I can't say enough good things about the writing and the art, both are really fantastic as I hope you can see.  Really the only bad thing about this series so far is that I have to wait until March for the next volume!


  1. yes, yes, yes! this is more like it :) Ive been following this series too and it is waaay cool and fun. glad its given u your dc faith back!

    ps. Maps rules!!

  2. I like all the main characters but Maps is so enthusiastic about stuff she makes me smile just to think about her.

    I guess my DC faith gets shaken every now and then but comics are a bit like Doctor Who, if you don't like what's being done currently you usually only have to wait a few years for things to turn back to your taste again.

  3. Yay, DC stroked your hair :-)

    The Batverse is cool 'cos ANYONE can be a part of it. Doesn't matter about your skin colour or disability status or anything.

    This reminds me of Hogwarts. "The third floor corridor is out of bounds to anyone who does not wish to suffer a most painful death."

    "Isn't it Byronic" :-D

    Pommeline is an interesting name.

  4. DC is finally being tender towards me, lets hope it lasts :D

    This book is definitely the latest in a long line of larks at a boarding school literature. My mum went to boarding school and she's made it plain that actually it's a pretty miserable experience. But that's in the boring old real world, no magic spells, superheroes or exciting mysteries to solve to make it more bearable.

    Pommeline is an excellent name, that does feel like it's channeling Harry Potter a bit. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

  5. Yeah, my mum went to a boarding school run by nuns. She hated it.

    Deecey could be a girl's name...

  6. Oh wow, being run by nuns must have made it a pretty severe place.

    Deecey does sound like a name come to mention it. I'm tempted to name a future pet that now. I could get a pair of kittens and call them Marvel and DC :D

  7. Awwwwww, that would be so cute! <3

  8. Well Biff is only ten, so it'll be a while yet (I hope).