This is an advanced review as the comic will be available on Wednesday, January 28th. Some spoilers below.
writers: Becky Cloonan & Brenden Fletcher / artist: Karl Kerschl / DC Comics
Gotham Academy continues to be a great series to read and is bringing a whole new wave of fans through its charm, including many new comic book readers who are oblivious to the high bar they’re setting. The creative team is dropping 3’s from all sides of the court. Did they know they would work so well together? Or is this nerd-serendipity? I imagine fans asking these questions at conventions and they all just give the Jordan shrug as they exit the room.
We left issue 3 with Olive and Pomeline in the early stages of their enemies-to-allies transformation. They had broken into North Hall looking for answers, but instead found a near-death experience, not to mention dropping that new iPhone someone must’ve spent a stack of money on. Their curiosity hasn’t been turning out too well, so when issue 4 begins with Olive and Pom saying how they might not be able to break back in, I start turning into the stereotype that yells at the movie screen.
Olive is called into the Headmaster’s office where Sabretooth’s grandfather was enjoying his evening Metamucil shake and remembering that time he killed Bambi’s mother. Olive worries the jig is up as she sits outside of his office yet again, waiting for the gavel to fall. At this point she would probably repent for her sins and wish she could take it all back, except – ooh! What’s that symbol?! Let’s check it out! Our heroine gets distracted again and peeks out the window and sees Ms. Macpherson talking a most important but unexpected character, and I’m caught yelling at the movie screen again.
Olive leaves the studio with her life intact and new mysteries in her head. Time to start doing some digging because, you know, it wouldn’t be fun if she were prudent. If Olive doesn’t go trying to answer questions, North Korea wins. This issue takes us all around campus, introduces a few new characters, and adds a few more mysteries to replace the questions we’ve had answered. Who is blondie with the glowing red eyes? We get a name! What does Millie Jane’s ghost want? We get some answers!
We also get comedy, which does an amazing job of balancing out the tension. On their road to answers, Olive and Maps do the high school equivalent of shaking down street thugs; only instead of actual street thugs they grab Tweak from South Park and pull him in the interrogation room. In a game of good-cop-bad-cop, Maps summons her inner Vic Mackey in a scene that might even make John Boehner laugh.
As a bonus, we see Olive in the most badass scene of her character thus far. Personally, if I see a ghost, I’ll run. I think that’s a perfectly sensible thing to do. Olive? Olive sees the Ghost of Millie Jane and starts running… towards it. Kerschl’s artwork stands out yet again as absolutely stunning, with brilliant facial expressions and dynamic perspectives. It’s difficult to have a genuinely scary ghost in a series like Gotham Academy, but the close-up of Millie Jane is surprisingly ghastly without being gruesome. It showcased some great balance between the darkness of the setting – this is Gotham, after all – and the charm of the series.
The Secret of the Symbol has everything: action, intrigue, comedy, and little subtle romance in more scenes than one. It even has an ending featuring a guest from Arkham Asylum, once again tying Gotham Academy to the larger world in a way that uses the city’s characters without relying on them. What was that conversation with Ms. Macpherson about? Does Olive have a crush… on someone not Kyle? And what does this Arkham fugitive know about Olive’s family?
Gotham Academy continues to be one of the best new titles in comics, and your pull list would be sad without it. It’s not too late to get in on the fun – catch up on previous reviews from Gotham Academy #1, Gotham Academy #2, and Gotham Academy #3 here.
Score: 10 out of 10