Given Gotham’s mysterious guardian and attraction to the criminal element, one would be correct in assuming life at its most prestigious boarding school isn’t exactly normal or quiet. Things are even stranger for Olive Silverlock, who’s dealing with personal issues she’d rather not tell her friends about involving her mother and a certain bat…
I loved the premise of Gotham Academy straight away. The concept of normal(-ish) children attending a spooky school on the edges of Batman mythos is fantastic. Cloonan does a good job taking that potential and letting it evolve in its own way at an appropriate pace. This is a mystery style tale, more concerned with atmosphere and story than action (though there is enough of that peppered in to keep things exciting). So the pace might be slow for some and it does meander here and there, but I liked the gradual build up of the school, its students, and its secrets. And while the mysteries are all intriguing, Cloonan knows that the true draw is the characters, and keeps the focus firmly on Silverlock and her friends.
The supporting cast is nicely varied and starts showing depth by the end of this volume. Some start out a bit one dimensional for immediate identification and to move the plot along, but happily none of them stay that way for long. Maps is a favorite of mine, as her relentless optimism is contagious and always stays on the side of endearing rather than annoying. Olive having no love for the Batman is interesting, as he almost plays an antagonist. I found him a bit harsh, but it’s a valid interpretation and suits the story. There’s also a fantastic cliffhanger in that regard leading into the next volume.
The art is great. It has a soft feel that might take getting used to, but everything is clear, expressive, and conveys tone and emotion well. The coloring is amazing. Always vivid, and while usually appropriately dark it brightens up whenever needed.
Overall everything really comes together as a whole here, with the art nicely complimenting an imaginative story. It’s strong ties to Gotham mythos could be double edged, as there were name drops and other references of significance that could be lost on readers not already familiar with Batman comics. But personally I enjoyed Gotham Academy and will definitely be continuing with volume 2.