Gotham Academy by Becky Cloonan, Brendan Fletcher

The beautiful artwork of Gotham Academy (collecting comics 1-6) drew me in – illustrations, color, and layout are so exquisitely beautiful in this series. Adding in parts of Harry Potter, Manga, and Winx/W.I.T.C.H. makes for a winning combination perfect for girls (and guys) who are looking for a bit of a different tale than expected from the superhero universe of Gotham City. It’s a book both myself and my 12 year old enjoyed.

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Story: Olive Silverlock begins her new school year a changed person. Moody, sort of breaking up with boyfriend Kyle, but still good friends with Maps Mizoguchi. For Olive’s mother was committed to Arkham Asylum by Batman and she’s angry, hurt, and very resentful. When a ghost is sighted in the derelict North Hall of Gotham Academy, she’ll assemble friends and frenemies alike to discover what’s really lurking there – and how it relates to her mother and her own damaged self.

The characters are fun in Gotham Academy – from quirky offbeat friend Maps, Map’s brother (Olive’s sort of ex-boyfriend) Kyle, to antagonist Pomeline. It’s all very Buffy The Vampire Slayer but trading that show’s sunny Southern California optimism for Gotham City’s ever present gloomy pessimism. The action is contained within the Academy and other than some cameos by Batman and Killer Croc, it’s fairly super-hero free. What we have here is introductory vignettes getting to know characters; more about the group coming together and eventually forming a detective club.

The story is very slow to start and meanders a bit; hence, the 4 instead of 5 star rating. The promise of the artwork hasn’t lived up to the story lines yet and we’re given a lot of hints but not enough to really hook a reader. Olive especially needs more developing beyond moody and mopey. But the promise is there and I’ll definitely be following the series.  Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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