Writers: Brenden Fletcher, Zac Gorman, Eduardo Medieros / Artists: Adam Archer, Zac Gorman, Rafael Albuquerque / DC Comics
Compilation album! Gotham Academy is in its 4-issue “Yearbook” arc, telling a series of short adventures that we missed from the Pizza Club’s schoolyear. Several writers and artists hop on the track to share mini stories and varying styles for our now-familiar characters, but can the “Yearbook” sequel be the comic equivalent of Soundbombing II (the greatest hip hop compilation album of all time – fight me)? Well, suffice it to say that Gotham Academy “Yearbook” plays its position by being quick-hitting, fun stories that make the boarding school’s campus an even more developed and engaging setting.
Like Westeros in Game of Thrones or the playground in Recess, the campus of Gotham Academy is becoming a character in itself – a place with enough familiarity and depth that it becomes as real as the characters who live in it. It says a lot about the series that readers are not only willing to read super short stories from around the campus grounds, but we actually enjoy them almost like casual time spent with its characters. Everybody wanted to have a clique like this in high school, and Gotham Academy makes you feel like you are.
In issue #15 the best story came from Serpents & Secrets, where Olive and Maps went from rolling dice in a role-playing board game, to actually being in the game Jumanji-style or, even better, the Dungeons and Dragons episode of Community. If you’re not a sucker for the RPG-turned-real-life trope, then I feel sympathy for the amount of happiness you’ve abandoned. Not only was the story fun, but the in-fantasy artwork was my favorite in the issue, giving us an awesome rendition of Maps in a Viking helmet (a misnomer, I know, historically Vikings didn’t actually wear helmets with horns) and Olive as a wizard.
The understated quality of “Yearbook” is that it’s actually hard to write short stories. Very hard. The difficulty behind writing short stories reminds me of a Mark Twain quote on brevity: “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” Having an impactful story with limited length can take more time and thought than having a less restricted space to tell your story – writing a 21-page comic is easier than writing a 4-page one. Yet “Yearbook,” while sometimes hit-or-miss, is doing great while making the Academy a more living, breathing place. And if a 5-page story misses, it’s no big deal, you only spent a few minutes on it anyway.
Bottom line, “Yearbook” captures the best of Gotham Academy – adventures you want to go on, characters you want to be friends with, and an oasis in Gotham that is nothing like anywhere else in DC Comics. Not as good as a full-adventure arc, but a nice change of pace in between them.
Reading Gotham Academy? Follow along with other reviews of the series here.