The cover: Olive and Maps are hanging from a rope inside some type of gothic structure, judging by the window behind them. The Bat signal is shining glaring and bats are flying below them. This is a gorgeous Main cover from interior artist Karl Kerschl. It’s a solid establishment of the two leads, the type of trouble they’ll be getting into, and a reminder that Batman is always a presence in the city. Well done. The Variant cover is done by one of the writers, Becky Cloonan, and it’s a close-up of the pair walking the halls of the Academy wearing their school jackets. Not bad, but too Harry Potter-ish. Too much blue used in the colors. In fact, this reminds me of packaging from a Monster High doll for its style and coloring. Overall grades: Main A and Variant C+
The story: This is such a copy of Harry Potter as to be painful. Another year is starting at Gotham Academy and “Maps” Mizoguchi has been assigned Olive Silverlock as her “nanny” to help adjust to life in the academy. This doesn’t sit well with Olive as Maps’s brother is her now not-boyfriend Kyle. Readers get to see what classes are like, who’s a bully, who’s pain, and that the two bond quickly. The day of the school’s official opening the pair decide to go into a forbidden section of the academy. Something happens as guest speaker Bruce Wayne is giving his remarks. And that about sums up all that happens. “Welcome to Gotham Academy” is written by Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher and there’s not much happening. So much is taken from J.K. Rowling’s wizard world, with a sinister Headmaster, the usual bullies, the gothic grounds, and there are even rumors of a ghost. The ending was funny with what happens with Wayne’s involvement, but there wasn’t much else for me to like. Something better needs to happen next month in the story to get me to return. Overall grade: D+
The art: I was completely taken with the look of this book, and that’s what encouraged me to give this a try. Karl Kerschl does a tremendous job with every inch of this. The characters look amazing (though I dare you not to think “Snape!” when seeing the Headmaster), with Olive and Maps being the stand outs. Watching these two tool about is fun. Olive has some nice “Sad Sack” moments meeting up with characters, and her eyes are gorgeous. Maps is much more outgoing with her fist up “Ready!” her stand out panel. The way Kerschl lays out his pages really adds to the story. Page 13 is a great example of this and it would make Alfred Hitchcock proud. 14 also has a tremendously detailed scene as the two characters reach their goal and have a superior view of the city, though I’m wondering how powerful that Bat signal is to be seen in that light. When something terrible happens the art really showcases the danger by having the characters shown from precarious angles. When Bruce Wayne appears, it’s very funny to see how he’s upstaged by what’s going on behind him. The final page is a nice way to tease of something bad coming soon in an upcoming issue, though it’s hard not to think of Matt Smith’s first Who season with that visual. Breathtakingly beautiful work on this comic. Overall grade: A+
The colors: This was also an extremely beautiful component of this issue. Geyser with Dave McCaig are doing a stellar job. The first page sets the gothic stage perfectly with a mix of seen and obscured forms. The green for the headmaster’s hallway is the perfect eerie touch to instill trepidation in readers. I was very pleased to see white used to highlight the aspects of the campus on the double-paged spread, as any other colors would have been lost in the downpour. 14 has one of the most beautiful skies I’ve ever seen in a comic, though that Bat signal’s strength does push things. I didn’t think 14 could be beaten, but 15 and 16 are just beautiful. I would seek out any work by this duo as this is incredible work. Overall grade: A+
The letters: Super work is also done by Steve Wands. He uses a very distinct font for Olive’s journal, and also creates dialogue, titles and credits, sounds, screams, and yells. I’m interested to know if he also created the assorted signage at the school, such as the blackboard (they still have those in private schools?), menu, and others. If he did, they also look great. Olive’s journal is a great addition to the DC cannon. Overall grade: A+
The final line: This book looks superior, but reads like last year’s model. Having a book set outside the normal crime fighting happenings of Gotham is a terrific idea, but the story has really got to improve if this is to survive. Overall grade: C
Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!”, he reviewed comics for TrekWeb, and he currently reviews Trek comics at TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for two years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.