Today sees the release of Gotham Academy Second Semester #12. It’s not only the final issue of this run but as far as we know the final issue of Gotham Academy for the foreseeable future. GA was the story of a group of young kids attending Gotham’s version of Hogwarts, a school with supernatural spooky elements that became a living character of its own. Over dozens of comics readers got to meet the enigmatic Olive Silverlock, her best friend the plucky Mia “Maps” Mizoguchi, tennis playing heart throb Kyle, prankster/fireworks salesman Colton, and the occult fascinated Pomeline Fritch. The group solved mysteries, fought ghosts, and uncovered some of Gotham’s secrets buried so deep they even illuded Batman himself.
To say the least, Gotham Academy was the epitome of a square peg in a round hole. Debuting as part of the ill conceived DC YOU initiative, it stood as one of the few bright spots of the branding. A book imagineered by the creative team of Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, and Karl Kerschl. Not only did they have the daunting task of launching a new IP comic book at a major publisher but faced the added challenge of creating a book that would fit in the world of DC Comics most name recognized franchise, Batman. The series resonated with critics from places such as IGN and Newsarama. Combine that with good trade paperback sales and Gotham Academy proved a young adult audience could be catered to without sacrificing touchstones that make comics from the big two great.
With today’s final issue, we don’t want to eulogize another comic book moving on to that big long box in the sky. Instead, we want to remember some of our favorite moments from the Gotham Academy comics:
Damian Wayne Meet Maps (Gotham Academy vol. 1 #1)
A story about kids of the black hole in Gotham was bound to meet the son of Batman. Damian Wayne made small but memorable appearances in different issues of Gotham Academy. It was issue seven that bonded Maps and Damian as her magic quill handcuffed them together. What made the issue really pop was the moment the new dynamic duo clung for their lives outside a window and maps got her first close up of real bat-gadget.
I Threw a Rock at Him (Gotham Academy vol. 1 #5-6)
Like any DCU comic book, guest stars were always going to be part of the equation. Gotham Academy was no exception, but the series managed to get the most mileage out of these spots. Perhaps no better example exists than the reveal of Killer Croc being the noise coming from the walls of the academy. Not only did Croc use the bowels of the school as a place to hide from Batman, he was revealed as Olive Silverlock’s protector after his final conversation with the young girl’s mother. It was a moment that gave the monster a level of humanity that hadn’t been seen since the episode of Batman: The Animated Series titled “Sideshow”.
Who’s Afraid of the Big Black Bat? (Gotham Academy Vol. 1#6)
Olive Silverlock’s story is one of curses and tragedy. After losing her mother to Arkham Asylum, she’s forced by a guilt driven Bruce Wayne to live at the Academy. On top of everything, she has to find out her mother was possessed by an evil spirit. In issue six after being rescued from a burning academy building by Croc, Olive must say goodbye to the last person to have known her mother. Stricken by grief and anger isn’t a time when you’d want to encounter Batman, but as luck would have it the caped crusader decided to make one of his trademark post- event pop ins where he’ll deliver a moral in his brooding manner. Only this time, Olive wasn’t having it.
The Pond Break Up (Gotham Academy vol.1 #3)
No teenage coming of age ghost story would be complete without a romance which readers can invest themselves in. Olive Silverlock and Kyle Mizoguchi were the “it” couple of your school in comic book form. Like any tragedy, they have to be perfect for one another while never actually getting to have that happy ending. In one of the more emotional sequences of GA’s early run, Olive and Kyle found themselves where many relationships end, the lake. What really cemented Kyle as a character you could love in this series wasn’t how he took this breakup but who he cared about more in the end, Olive and his own sister Maps over his own well being.
Olive’s Roommate is Tyler Durden (Gotham Academy Second Semester #7)
When the students of Gotham Academy returned for their sophomore year, much had changed including Olive getting a new dorm roommate. A troubled rebel named Amy caused commotions in Olive’s life and strained her relationships with her friends. In one instance she even nearly caused a student’s death by playing keep away with his medicines. That’s why the reveal of who Amy actually was stood out among the series best moments. Olive’s reaction to learning she was Jack’s smirking revenge is an awesomely played out moment.
Olive’s Inner Demon Takes Over (Gotham Academy Second Semester #8)
Poor family Silverlock, from her mother who tragically perished after a battle with Batman brought a building down on her to Olive who has spent her entire run as a DC character shadowed by her family’s curse and must always live keeping her loved ones at arm’s length. It was almost a relief to see Olive’s inner demon finally come out and be dealt with. Issue eight saw the spirit of Amity Arkham (the same ghost that possessed her mother) take the wheel to begin extracting her revenge on the families of Gotham she believed wronged her. Names which included Bat-verse notables such as Cobblepot, Dent, and even Wayne. What pops about issue eight is it’s the first time readers get to see Olive’s power truly on display as she’s in a state of mind where she feels betrayed enough to side with Amity Arkham’s mission. She even holds her own with the Batman.
Go Be Robin! (Gotham Academy Second Semester #11)
Damian Wayne’s return to the pages of Gotham Academy was possibly one of the best single issues of 2017. As Two-Face and his gang invade Wayne manor in search of the secret diary of Millie Jane Cobblepot they’re interrupted by Maps, Pom, and Colton who are in search of the same artifact they believe holds the secret to freeing Olive from her curse. A third party lurks in the shadows nabbing Maps in a sequence that’s one of the most fun pieces of comic book to read in a long time.
While Maps licking Damian’s hand could have been the standout moment of the issue, the real poignant piece comes at the issues end. As the group witnesses the devastation a possessed Olive causes from a far, they’re dropped in on by Damian in full Robin gear. In a rare moment for the battle hardened and often times cold blooded Robin, he advocates for the side of compassion as he convinces Maps to “fight for your friendship”, even bestowing Maps with her very own Robin mask.
Maps is getting good at this Hero Thing (Gotham Academy Second Semester #12)
This series final issue ended with quite the bang. In a moment that sums up the essence of the past three years; these girls who have always leaned on each other for simple things like comfort after breaking up with a boy to the dangers of solving historical mysteries, give the audience a much-needed reaffirmation of the series promise, friendship. As Maps acts the part of her Robin mask by swooping in to be there for her Olive. The two, to that point, had been strained from the accidental hospitalization of Maps brother Kyle after his encounter with a possessed Olive. It’s an emotional moment for everyone, given a bit of signature levity, by a single line, “you’re really good at this”.
Gotham Academy’s future was never Gotham Academy. You can only go to school soo long before you have to grow up, but these characters, for their time, fit the void left by DC Comics best-supporting players books such as Gotham Central. Will they be back in some form? It’s almost certain, imprints such as Young Animal and DC’s own experimentation into a dedicated younger readers line give material like this a place to exist in DC’s future. Personally, Becky, Brenden, and Karl not only created a world that gave a drab and over-serious DC New 52 that lil bit of fun missing from their comics; it gave me a lesson in humility. I remember first hearing the pitch and place for Gotham Academy thinking it would be the dumbest thing in comics. Like most, I didn’t give it much of a chance until I picked up the first couple of issues and was won over by the material between the covers, the very human supernatural story, and those two magic words, “pizza club.”
Have a good Summer, GA!
-Your pal, CB!