The wait is over. Gotham Academy has been one of the most eagerly anticipated new titles since its announcement. From the moment I first saw the promo art by Karl Kerschl, this was the one new title I was most excited for this fall. I thought the art conjured Miyazaki’s movies — the colorful, playful, rosy-cheeked looks of My Neighbor Totoro and The Secret World of Arrietty. Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, and Kerschl have prepared a new world within the DC Universe that promises a lot of fun and secrets.
This debut issue introduces us to two main protagonists: Olive Silverlock and Maps Mizoguchi. Olive is a sophomore who has yet to crack a smile on-panel. She’s plagued by severe feelings of loneliness and ostracization. She was, and technically still kind of is, dating Maps’ older brother, Kyle. Maps is an adorable, freckled, wide-eyed freshman, full of curiosity and disbelief that Gotham Academy’s cafeteria serves a Belgian waffle bar. To her credit, I would be just as incredulous at my good fortune if I were her — this cafeteria’s menu is about a thousand times better than the average high school’s.
We briefly meet a few supporting characters: Pomeline Fritch, the snobby bully with an edgy, black military boots look; Colton Rivera, a suave, mop-top haired boy who wears sunglasses indoors; Lucy, Olive’s disagreeable roommate. Bruce Wayne even makes a cameo appearance, and we learn that he recognizes Olive and seems personally concerned about her safety. Becky Cloonan teased in an interview with The Mary Sue that one of the ongoing mysteries of this title will be why Olive hates Batman. We only get a few glimpses of Kyle, who is silent this entire issue.
Kerschl’s art, with intricate colors by Geyser (Romain Gaschet) and Dave McCaig, looks stunning on every panel. I love the first interior shot, when Olive and Maps are surrounded by walls that glow with an insistent, eerie green. Maps’ matching bright yellow hair clip, backpack, and Adidas shoes are instant signature pieces of her character. One two-page spread showing what’s happening in different places across campus is reminiscent of a campus map in Avengers Academy. Geyser colors details with simple elegance — the rain falling outside classroom windows — and lifelike accuracy — the dusty chalkboard, Maps’ excited facial expressions. Also, check out Olive’s “What Would Mr. Darcy Do?” poster!
Two artistic highlights: One panel where Maps is sitting outside by herself next to a statue. Look at the archway behind her, and the copper-tone bricks of the building. The other: when Olive and Maps poke around a dusty loft. The three-dimensional perspective is immersive, and you feel like you can breathe in the musty air.
From their very first panel together, Maps and Olive’s happy-go-lucky younger sister/wounded older sister dynamic evokes Princess Anna’s “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” opposite Elsa, or Ramona Quimby with Beatrice. There are so few comics (or shows, or movies) that get this relationship right. Runaways did it excellently with Molly Hayes and Karolina Dean. Cloonan and Fletcher’s superb writing of these two young women, paired with Kerschl and Geyser’s gorgeous art that would make Miyazaki envious, promises this series will be one of the most enjoyable in the market for any reader, young or old.